With the personal approval of Fidel Castro himself, IKEA used Cuban prison labor to make furniture in the late 1980s, but it wasn’t limited to furniture:
The memo notes that the agreements included a deal on “the production of furniture for export to Sweden” — the world headquarters of IKEA — with a total value of 12 million German Marks. But it does not specifically mention IKEA or prison labor.
It appears from the memo that Delta acted on behalf of the Swedish furniture and housewares chain.
Also mentioned in the memo are deals on textiles as well as 10,000 tons of grapefruit juice valued at 4.5 million marks, 200,000 bottles of rum and 200,000 cigars — all three products highly coveted in East Germany because of their “tropical” image.
KuA also ordered three containers of “antique furniture,” the memo added. Castro’s government seized tens of thousands of valuable antiques, paintings and sculptures as wealthy families fled abroad in the early years of the revolution and had to leave their property there.
The Cuban partners also asked for KuA help in exporting to the non-communist world what the document called “Oldtimers” — the antique U.S.-made cars and trucks still seen in Cuban streets to this day. “400 Oldtimers are ready for export,” the document said.
I’m sure some Castro apologist somewhere is saying, “but they have free healthcare.”
It is an island prison.