Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cigar Aficionado: Cuba embargo needs to go up in smoke

Sacramento Bee

Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Story appeared in EDITORIALS section, Page B8

He just couldn't stop himself.

El Gob, a.k.a. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, really likes his Cuban cigars. And he likes them enough that he's willing to risk a $250,000 fine and 10-year prison term to smoke one.

Hey, look at it this way. Smoking Cuban cigars is an act of civil disobedience. So what if Cuban cigars are considered contraband? That U.S. trade embargo of Cuba is just dumb anyway and can't stop the governator.

Schwarzenegger's practiced that distinctive brand of civil disobedience for a long time now. He's been on the cover of Cigar Aficionado magazine twice, a periodical well-known for its opposition to the U.S. embargo of Cuba. He said back in 1996 that he usually smoked Cohiba, Punch, Romeo y Julietas, Hoyo de Monterrey, all well known-Cuban cigars.

After he became governor, Schwarzenegger tried to turn over a new leaf, giving Daniel Marshall cigars, made in California, to legislators who frequent his cigar tent at the Capitol. (Inquiring minds still would like to know what cigars are in the collection he keeps in his little office at the Stanford Mansion.) But lately during a trade trip to Canada, it seems that Schwarzenegger just couldn't resist a Cuban cigar on his way out of Ottawa — a Partagas cigar in fact, a legendary Cuban brand, according to Friday's Ottawa Citizen newspaper. The cigar is gone now, up in smoke, says the governor's spokesperson, so who knows what it was. Only the shopkeeper knows for sure.

It was bad enough when Americans couldn't import Cuban cigars and other Cuban goods. But the Bush administration made the embargo worse with a regulation on Sept. 30, 2004, that said Americans cannot buy or smoke Cuban cigars even in countries where the cigars are legal, such as Canada, Mexico, Europe, indeed most of the world. The same goes for Havana Club rum and other Cuban products.

What does the president — and Congress for that matter — have against a small island nation that's a threat to nobody? The Cold War's long over. Besides, the 45-year-old embargo hasn't done anything to dislodge Fidel Castro, who's grown old in office.

Why not try something new — say, expanding U.S. influence and trade for the day that Fidel is gone? Schwarzenegger, with his Partagas cigar, has highlighted the idiocy of the Cuba embargo. Surely he would agree with our advice: Terminate it.


JG: Thousands of Americans cross the border every year and go to Canada and Mexico to smoke the high quality Cuban cigars. Message to the White House cowboy: hurry up and leave! We are looking forward to January 20, 2009.

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