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A Late Night With Fidel

Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Fidel Castro, Summer 94

(continued from page 2)

Fidel was happy to talk about cigars, even though he stopped smoking eight years ago... and he remembers the exact day he quit. He still keeps tabs on the cigar industry, which produces Cuba's most prestigious export. He has fond memories back to the age of 15, when his father first introduced him to cigars, and of his days when he was seldom photographed without a cigar in his hand.

Castro clearly relished discussing his country's cigars. After more than an hour, the interview turned to subjects that trouble the Cuban leader and interest all of us -- the country's economy, the 33-year-old trade embargo imposed by the United States and his own future.

It's no secret that Cuba is going through tough times. Shortages of food, clothing, medical supplies, gasoline and electricity are common. There's good reason. The breakup of the Soviet Union and the demise of other members of the socialist bloc have left Cuba's nearly 11 million people without their most important benefactors and their billions of dollars a year in aid and subsidies.

President Castro was ready to talk about a world without an embargo. He talked about how peace between nations should depend on their respect for one another's sovereignty. He spoke of the United States' history and fight for independence. He was pointed in his comments about who should take the first step to end the impasse. He also left no doubt about his own plans during this difficult period in Cuba's history and in the future.

It was almost 3:00 a.m. when we finished, and the last of the photographs, by Cigar Aficionado European Editor James Suckling, had been taken. It seemed then that we could have talked for several more hours. But I had finished the list of questions...and was already anxious to share this very special evening with the readers of Cigar Aficionado.

Marvin R. Shanken
Editor and Publisher

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