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An Interview with Manuel Quesada

Owner, MATASA, makers of Fonseca, Licenciados, Romeo y Julieta, Jose Benito, Cubita, Royal Dominicana, Credo and Casa Blanca cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 20)

CA: After Cuba, what drove you to decide to go to the Dominican Republic as opposed to one of the other countries that grow tobacco?

Quesada: We first went to Dominican Republic in 1939. My great-uncle went to Dominican Republic in '39, and we used to buy tobacco from Dominican Republic and from Cuba and sell it to the Spanish monopoly. So we knew the country, we knew the people and we knew the tobacco, and when we left Cuba the family moved its operations to Dominican Republic--without any money, of course.

CA: When did the Dominican Republic begin the free zones?

Quesada: 1972.

CA: How important was that governmental action in attracting and maintaining manufacturers during this period of decline?

Quesada: It was important for two reasons. One, you could make cigars in a country that had a long tradition of tobacco and cigar-making. Two, you could bring in tobaccos from any part of the world duty free as long as you exported the cigars out again from the country. So, it afforded you a blend without having to pay duty for the tobacco. Also, you had labor, because it was a cigar-making country. So you had labor there to make cigars right away. So Dominican Republic was attractive for cigar-making back in the 1970s. There were two factories, local factories, and then Consolidated came from the Canary Islands. We established ourselves in Santiago. General Cigar and Fuente came later.

CA: So you avoid a duty on the tobacco you bring in. What about on the cigars that you ship out?

Quesada: There is no export duty.

CA: So you save the consumer a lot of money and, I assume, the theory there is that you're creating jobs?

Quesada: Exactly. And also bringing hard currency into the country, because we pay all the expenses in dollars.


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