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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 8)

Padrón: Yes. I had the tobacco, because to me the most important thing in a factory is to have the prime material ready. A manufacturer can be without money but he has to have his prime material ready if he wants to maintain his blend. I had close to 350 bales of tobacco. On July 16, before the [Nicaraguan president's] palace fell, we chartered a plane. We loaded those bales that I had and flew them to El Salvador, and from El Salvador to San Pedro Zula to Puerto Cortez and then on to Tampa. I still have a few bales there with the numbers.

CA: It was your tobacco?

Padrón: Yes. I knew I had to save my prime raw material. I had chartered the plane because I needed to save it. We took it to Tampa first; from Tampa it went to Honduras. We even ended up using some of it again in Nicaragua.

CA: What happened after the Sandinistas won?

Padrón: When the Sandinistas had won, my laborers put on a demonstration in the village: "Bring back Padrón!" In the main park, you know the people that are always there. My workers called me from there, "What do we do? Do we continue with the factory? You have tobacco here." In fact, there were 700 bales.

CA: But there had been a lot of fighting in that part of the country, and Estelí was bombed more than once.

Padrón: Yes, but the workers had protected the factory, because I had told them to guard it or I would never return. The factorytook three hits, knocking down a wall. But the only thing I lost during the war was a $70 tobacco scale.

CA: Incredible--even during September of '78 when the city was taken over by the Sandinista rebel army for three weeks?

Padrón: Yes. We only lost that amount. So what to do? I told [my employees] to start manufacturing again. I had confidence in them, and they did it. Now I didn't go there right away. After about a year I went back because they needed more tobacco. There were about 300 people in the factory. The local commandant was there and I spoke to him, saying that he knew me and he knew I had worked with everyone, including Somoza and the Sandinistas.I asked him if they thought I was the right person to continue operations at the factory. I said to him that "if you tell me that I am in the way here, then you are saying it to me for the first time. Do you see all those people there? They have all made their living from this factory for 10 years now. I think you have the final word, and I would like for you to tell me what it is that you think." Just like that. In front of all of them, the Sandinista official told me, "We know who you are and we also know what you are. You can remain here. We are going to give you a guarantee that you will not have problems again."

CA: This was in 1980?

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