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An Interview with Jose Padrón

Chairman, Piloto Cigars Inc.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Gina Gershon, Sep/Oct 98

(continued from page 15)

Padrón: I'd get to the Pinar del Río as quickly as possible and find the men that are over the age of 50 that I once knew, that are probably not today working in tobacco. I'd have a factory in Pinar del Río. I'd first help the growers with fertilizer. But that's not going tohappen with Fidel in power.

CA: Would you start a factory for processing tobacco or cigar making?

Padrón: Cigar making. But I'd also get some farms I know.

CA: Didn't you get in trouble once in Miami because you went to Cuba?

Padrón: Yes. This is an important story. I was a revolutionary. I was very involved in the Cuban revolution. But when I left Cuba because I didn't like the way the revolution was going, I had left behind a few friends that told me not to forget about them, that they were going to see just how far they could go in Cuba. But many of them ended up in prison.

CA: The majority of them were revolutionaries, correct?

Padrón: Exactly; the majority were, well, actually all of them were. We went with a group of six people from the United States to see if we could get them out of prison.

CA: What year was that?

Padrón: 1978. I had never thought I would return to Cuba until the conditions that had made me leave had changed. We arrived in Cuba October 20, 1978, in the evening with the intention of getting my friends and as many other political prisoners released. At that point, we were not able to get them released, but we did interview one. Later during our visit, on a Saturday morning, they took me to see the University of Havana. At around 1 p.m., we went to a government house and Fidel Castro appeared.

We started talking. We were trying to figure out a way to have the prisoners released in an orderly fashion. We were calculatingit all: how many prisoners there were, how they could be taken out, the planes. We needed to have some organization to be able to get those prisoners out of the country. We were sitting at a table and they brought out a box of Cohibas. They gave me that box as a gift so that I would be able to try the cigar. We still hadn't discussed the prisoners, since this was at the beginning of the visit. I had a box of my cigars on the table and I was sitting at the head of the table. Fidel said to me, "Padrón, they tell me that you are making cigars in Miami. Can I try one?"

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