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A Conversation With Fidel

Marvin R. Shanken travels to Havana for an extensive interview with Fidel Castro.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Fidel Castro, Summer 94

(continued from page 5)

Shanken: There are many educated people who are willing to take whatever the calculated risk is because they love cigars so much.

Castro: It's a person's right. They know how they feel about it--not to drink, not to smoke, whatever.

Shanken: Have you spent much time in the Vuelta Abajo or visiting the cigar factories?

Castro: Yes. I have visited the Vuelta Abajo very often. I like it there. [Tobacco growing] is a very complicated and sophisticated cultivation process, one of the most complicated that I know.

I forgot to mention something more about cigars. When I was in the mountains during the war, people used to send me cigars. Sometimes I would run out of cigars, and when I only had one left, I would put it in my shirt pocket and keep it. When did I finally smoke it? I would smoke it when I had very good news or very bad news. If it was good news, I would celebrate with a cigar, but if it was bad news, it really compensated for the bad news.

Shanken: Do you remember signing a box of 50 Cohiba Lanceros? It was recently auctioned at a charity dinner in London to benefit medical relief for Cubans. Do you know how much the box sold for?

Castro: I heard it was very expensive.

Shanken: £12,000 ($18,500).

Castro: I never heard how much it finally went for, but that is very impressive. I heard it was a record.

Shanken: Let's move on to something a little more serious. The embargo. How has the production of cigars for export been affected because of your inability to get enough fertilizer, gasoline, tarpaulin and other resources for the growing of tobacco? You could export more cigars by lowering the standard of quality, but apparently you are not. I've been told that quality is your top priority.

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