The Cuban government will appropriately “discipline” the state pharmaceutical company Labiofam for creating perfume products in honor of communist heroes Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez, calling the creation of said perfumes a “grave error.”
In a note published in state news outlet Granma, titled “Icons are Sacred,” Cuban government officials noted that the perfumes were marketed at an event this week and were not authorized by high-ranking government officials. The perfumes, name “Ernesto” and “Hugo,” respectively, constitute a violation of the holiness of both figures, the note goes on to explain. “Initiatives of this nature will never be accepted by our people nor by the Revolutionary Government,” the note reads, adding, “due to this grave error, the corresponding disciplinary measures will be taken.”
“The icons yesterday, today, and evermore, are sacred,” the note concludes.
The note contradicts statements by Labiofam that they had received approval for the project from both the families of Guevara and Chávez, as first reported in the Associated Press, which Granma notes with zeal is an American news agency. Spokespersons for Labiofam had debuted the fragrances with enthusiasm as “homages” to the nefarious characters. Labiofam’s vice-president for research and development, Isabel González, said in a statement that the products would be “very attractive colognes, but the names also mean a lot to us.” Another worker on the project, biochemist Mario Valdés, said” “We didn’t want to create propaganda, but rather pay homage to them and help their names endure.”
The Associated Press describes the “Che”-themed cologne as “woodsy,” while Chávez would be a more “fruity” variety, with hints of papaya. The choice of Che Guevara as a symbol in selling kitschy products is nothing new– even in America, some estimate that t-shirts emblazoned with the mass murderer‘s face sell into the millions every year. Chávez is a newcomer to the status of capitalist mascot, however, with this perfume being among the first attempts to cash in on the marketing of Chávez as a populist hero.
While Guevara’s image has indeed been used for decades to sell items on the free market, a fragrance may perhaps be the most badly thought out approach for using his image. Guevara was possessed with notoriously bad hygiene, something of which he was proud. Having declared cleanliness a “bourgeois” virtue, Guevara did away with standard hygiene and, in so doing, acquired the nickname “El Chancho,” or “The Swine.”