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An Interview With Manuel Quesada

The head of Manufactura de Tabacos S.A. (Matasa), makers of Fonseca, Cubita and other cigars.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Alec Baldwin, May/June 2004

(continued from page 9)

Q: And Julio Fajardo, your right-hand man. Could you talk about what happened that day?

A: I was coming back from Spain. I was in Madrid. And Julio, Alvaro and Alvarito, my nephew, wanted to go to Haiti to look at a cigarette factory, because we were involved in the purchase of a cigarette factory in the Dominican Republic. So they wanted to go to Haiti to see the cigarette factory because they wanted to go see what their capabilities were. So I'm flying back, and they were leaving that morning to go to Port-au-Prince. And coming into Santiago, it must have been 5:30, 6 o,clock. And I called my niece to find out if they had come back from Haiti. And my niece tells me, "We have no news from them. They left this morning around 11 and we haven't heard from them since."

Q: They were supposed to be back…

A: Ah, 3 o,clock, 4 o,clock. So instead of going home, I went straight to the airport because they were starting a…not a rescue operation, but a flyover to see if they could find anything. So helicopters were going out and airplanes were going out. Weather was not good that day. Visibility was not good. So they came back around 6:30 or 7 o,clock, with no news. That night, we had no news. The next morning, which is April 18, rescue operations went out again and around 2 o,clock in the afternoon they found the airplane…from the air. They saw the airplane from the air. It was unreachable because of where it was and weather. Nobody could land where it was. Finally, Friday morning, they were able to land and a rescue team had left by land to go up to the mountain and try to see firsthand what had happened. So by the time they landed, on Friday morning, and the rescue team had gotten to the place where they had seen the plane, the news came back that all the…that it had been a fatal accident. So they were able to bring the bodies back that Friday. And we buried them that Friday afternoon.

Three-quarters of the company went down that day, so I was left sort of alone. I have my daughters and my niece, but, of course, they were, at the time, and they still are, works in progress. They're young and they're learning and they're involved, but not at the level that these three…well, my brother and Julio, because my nephew was also a work in progress.

Q: How old was your nephew?

A: Twenty-four.

Q: And Julio was your right-hand man.

A: Yeah. But, fortunately—in all the bad, you can always find some good things—Julio and I had talked of bringing up people from the factory, because Julio and I could no longer be casing wrapper,

following filler, seeing what the yields were on the floor, making

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