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An Interview With Carlos Toraño

President, Central American Tobacco Corp.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Bill Murray, Nov/Dec 2004

(continued from page 1)

Q: What was that wrapper like at the end of the process?

A: Beautiful, a light brown. Not as light as Connecticut we see today sometimes—a little bit darker—but it was absolutely beautiful tobacco.

Q: How was life under Batista?

A: It was very good for business. Batista was the kind of dictator who wanted to be loved by the people. Life under Batista was very easy. Batista was a pro-business man. One of the funny things about the dictatorship of Batista is that there were so many newspapers in Cuba; we probably had 30 or 40 in the island, and in magazines, probably about 100 magazines, so we can talk to different people, and they could say almost anything they wanted to.

Q: Tell me about the revolution.

A: I remember we came back from visiting the farms, and we were riding horses, probably at midnight. December 31st, 1958. Batista had left. So it was, "Oh my god, what is going to happen?" It took us seven days to drive from the farm in San Juan to the city, to our home in Havana, because all the roads were closed. All the towns—you could not get into any town, because everybody wasn't working. And in every town that we had to cross—there must have been about 20—my father gave a revolutionary speech.

Q: Why?

A: I hate to say this, but [laughs], but he always felt the [Batista] dictatorship was awful and we, like most people, were very excited about the possibility of a new system, a very democratic system. These were the expectations: we were going to go into a new era—a democratic system, not a dictatorship. Little did we know that 45 years later, we would still be talking about it.

Q: Your father had given him money.

A: Probably over a million pesos at that time, which is a lot of money for that time. We're talking about a lot of money. I remember the discussions between Ramon Cifuentes [the maker of Partagas who was anti-Castro from the beginning] and my dad. My dad said, "You're crazy, you don't know what you're doing."

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