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John F. Kennedy & Cuban Cigars

2 Comments 29 June 2010

President John F. Kennedy asked his press secretary buy a 1,000 Cuban-made Petit Upmanns cigars the night before he announced an embargo on them, according to Pierre Salinger, Press Secretary for John F. Kennedy, Published Autumn 1992:

“…the President called me into his office in the early evening.

“‘Pierre, I need some help,’ he said solemnly.

“‘I’ll be glad to do anything I can Mr. President,’ I replied.

“‘I need a lot of cigars.’

“‘How many, Mr. President?’

“‘About 1,000 Petit Upmanns.’

“I shuddered a bit, although I kept my reaction to myself. ‘And, when do you need them, Mr. President?’

“‘Tomorrow morning.’

“I walked out of the office wondering if I would succeed. But since I was now a solid Cuban cigar smoker, I knew a lot of stores, and I worked on the problem into the evening.
“The next morning, I walked into my White House office at about 8 a.m., and the direct line from the President’s office was already ringing. He asked me to come in immediately.
“‘How did you do Pierre?’ he asked, as I walked through the door.

“‘Very well,’ I answered. In fact, I’d gotten 1,200 cigars. Kennedy smiled, and opened up his desk. He took out a long paper which he immediately signed. It was the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States. Cuban cigars were now illegal in our country.”

The Cuban embargo began with an act of ruling-class arrogance. According to Pierre Salinger, President John F. Kennedy’s press secretary, on the night before the embargo was announced, Kennedy asked him to buy up 1,000 Cuban cigars from Washington tobacconists. Kennedy knew that the embargo would limit the supply and raise prices. He wanted to secure his stash before he announced the embargo. Kennedy’s offense was not possession of the cigars (the ones imported before the embargo were not contraband); his offense, rather, was his use of his office to gain advantage over the citizenry.
Source: The Future of Freedom Foundation

Kennedy, Cuba and Cigars

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