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Inside Cuban Cigars—A Talk With Cubatabaco Head Francisco Padron

Cigar Aficionado meets with Cubatabaco's top official, Francisco Padron, to discuss Cuba's cigar industry.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

(continued from page 8)

C.A.: So they have to hope that you will go so that they have a chance to deal with somebody else.
Padron: Maybe if the next person in my position is a fool; maybe they will have a chance. Why do we need Davidoff? What for? They killed their own chances!

C.A.: We did a story a year ago about the Trinidad cigar, Castro's personal cigar for gifts. This has started a great mystique. Everybody wants to see it. Everybody wants to hold it. Everybody wants to smoke it. Is there any possibility, on a limited basis, that you might take the Trinidad out of just being a private stock for Fidel and diplomatic friends?
Padron: I don't think so because he is going to tell us, "fellows, why don't you create your own brand? Whenever I come up with a brand name, you take it from me." He already told me that I should pay him a royalty for the Cohibas I sell (laughs). He is right, you know.

C.A.: Does Castro stay in touch with what is happening in the world market for Havana cigars, and how the demand and image are growing, and how they are a great asset in terms of image to his country?
Padron: I have already told you the instructions he has delivered to me. He said, "Padron. Quality first. Quality first." He says that if we have a short crop, then we must have a short production of exportable cigars. It's quality first.

C.A.: Is there any product from Cuba that is exported that has the importance in terms of top image like Havana cigars?
Padron: I think that our lobsters and our shrimps have a very high image. Of course, our rum is also very well known. Also, our coffee is excellent.

C.A.: A week ago in London, there was an auction to help raise money for medical relief in Cuba at which time boxes of pre-Castro cigars and others went for very high prices. There was one box of 50 Cohiba Lancero cigars that had Fidel Castro's signature on top. That sold for a record £12,500, or about $18,750 (The money was raised for Cuban medical relief). Does Castro know about this, and what was his reaction?
Padron: He was surprised. He laughed and said, "well, if you need any more boxes to be signed, just let me know." He was just joking, but he was very, very proud.

C.A.: So you might do this again?
Padron: That depends on him.

C.A.: How did you get him to sign the box in the first place?
Padron: He decided to do it. That was up to him.

C.A.: Someone had to ask him?
Padron: I didn't do it. I am not sure how it happened.

C.A.: Has Cubatabaco ever held back stocks of cigars, and, if so, do you have any stocks of Cuban cigars from before the Revolution?
Padron: We have a few stocks of these cigars (from 1959 and older). Not many. Just a few. We always keep some of them in stock.

C.A.: They are not for sale?
Padron: No, they are not for sale.

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