HAVANA - The golden arches are nowhere to be found. There's not a single Starbucks or Wal-Mart, and no way to buy a Budweiser, a Corvette or a Dell.
But even in Cuba, you can get a Coke.
Despite the U.S. Trading With the Enemy Act, which governs Washington's 45-year-old embargo, sales on Fidel Castro's island are lining the pockets of corporate America.
Nikes, Colgate and Marlboros, Gillette Series shaving cream and Jordache jeans - all are easy to find. Cubans who wear contact lenses can buy Bausch & Lomb. Parents can surprise the kids with a Mickey Mouse fire truck.
Dozens of American brands are on sale here, and not in some black-market back alley. They're in the lobbies of gleaming government-run hotels and in crowded supermarkets and pharmacies that answer to the communist government.
The companies say that they have no direct knowledge of sales in Cuba and that the amounts involved are small and would be impractical to stop. But it's hard to deny that a portion of the transactions winds up back in the U.S.
"We try and do what we can to police . . . but in a globalized economy, it's impossible to catch everything," said Vada Manager, director of global-issues management for Nike Inc.
Trade sanctions bar American tourists from visiting Cuba and allow exports only of U.S. food and farm products, medical supplies and some telecommunications equipment. But wholesalers and distributors in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Canada routinely sell some of America's most recognizable brands to Cuban importers.
Cuba for years has sought out American goods as a way of thumbing its nose at the embargo. Officials at three foreign-owned import companies operating in Havana, who refused to have their names published for fear of economic repercussions, said the communist government itself still imports the vast majority of American goods.
Christopher Padilla, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for export administration, said from Washington that Cuba even sends delegations on "buying missions," hunting for specific American products in third countries for resale back home. Cuban authorities did not make officials available to discuss the practice.
In a country where tourism is the leading revenue source, stocking American brands helps reassure visitors, according to Daniel Erikson, a Cuban-economy expert at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.
"People, average Cubans included, would rather have Coca-Cola than a no-name generic soda
they're not familiar with. That means the government can charge more," Erikson said. "And obviously for the tourist industry it's important for the foreigners who visit Cuba to see products that they know and trust."
All American products are sold in Cuban convertible pesos, considered foreign currency and worth $1.08 apiece - about 25 times the island's regular peso. Although government salaries have increased in recent years, the average monthly pay is still around $15, meaning few Cubans can afford U.S. goods.