The Nicotine Business


The hands move with confidence and speed, having barely 30 seconds to slip the cigars that will go to the black market under the table. Two cameras pan the room where the fragrant leaves are rolled and put in boxes with names like Cohiba, Partagás, H. Upmann. Each glass eye rotates 180 degrees, leaving — for a very short time — a blind spot, a narrow stretch of unguarded rollers. Just enough time to put that Lancero or Robusto — to be sold later outside the official market — out of sight of the supervisors. Another employee is charged with paying the guards to let them out of the premises and within twenty-four hours a strong aroma will already be on the streets.

When my Spanish students asked me about the quality of the cigars sold “outside,” I would joke with them saying that inside those boxes they might well find rolled-up copies of the newspaper Granma. But I also know that a good part of the clandestine supply comes from the same institutional places where they make the ones exhibited in the legal stores. Three out of every five Habaneros, if challenged, would brag about knowing a real roller who can get them authentic and fresh puros. The business of nicotine involves thousands of people in this city and generates a network of corruption and earnings of incalculable size. The challenge is that the final product looks just like the one the State sells, but costs three or four times less.

Among the most common proposition a tourist hears is, “Mister! Cigars!” or “Lady! Habanos!” shouted from every corner. At least it’s not as shocking as when some pimp sidles up to whispers his catalog: “Girls, Boys, Girls with Girls.” So the sequence that starts in the factory, in those thirty seconds when the lens of the camera is looking the other way, ends with a foreigner paying, for twenty-five cigars, what would otherwise be enough to buy only two. Everyone leaves happy: the roller, the guard, the illegal seller and… the State? OK… but who cares?

Advertisements

22 thoughts on “The Nicotine Business

  1. The cuban cigar …once coveted for its quality, then coveted becuase is the forbiden fruit of many.
    Is still the quality cigar as it was years ago?
    Well, I think the only thing of quality in itself is the label & the apparent prestige it represents.
    other than that … La Flor Dominicana (not a cuban cigar) has the flavor & robustness of a quality cuban cigar of yesteryears,the Vegas Robaina on the other hand, today is poorly constructed, tight & hard to draw.
    The quality of the cuban cigar is diminished, the only thing left is the past glory & the used to be … so who cares? you are right, “no one cares”

  2. The tobacco industry accounted for 10% of the island exports at a volume of 11,434 million cigarettes and 79 million cigars in 1958 producing $51 million in revenue.

    The following form adjusts any given amount of money for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index (http://www.westegg.com/inflation/). Due to the inflation what cost $1 in 1958, will cost $7.34 in 2009.

    Adjusting for inflation the cigars exported in 1958 would have reached a value of $374 million in 2009. Sales from cigar exports reach only $218 million in 2009, a 42% reduction compare to the year 1958.

    tobacco accounted for close to 10% of exports in the two years before the revolution,[6] at a volume of 11,434 million cigarettes and 591 million cigars in 1959.

  3. And how about your “freedom of speech” in your “pragmatic capitalism?

    youtube just shut down the cubadebate channel for writing and posting negative videos about Posada!!!!

    Is that what you really want?

    So then I was right. You are just a bunch of wannabe Castros simply waiting in line for your tun on screwing up your own people.

    Criminals and punks. That is what you all are.

  4. Tobacco leaf production reached 44,000 MT in 1958, with a total of 335 million cigars, and 624 million of cigarettes packages produced. The export of 79 million cigars produced $51 million. In 2009 tobacco leaf production was only 25,200 MT, with 300 million cigars produced for domestic consumption and 73 million of cigar for export with a value of $218 million. The production keep going down, a 75% reduction compare to the year 1958.

    The island economy is in shambles. Cuba was one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America before 1959. Under the Castro brothers’ military dictatorship the island economy has been decimated. How is possible that after 51 years of a failure still there are people defending this regime?

  5. I wonder how many MININT employed castro-loving, communist parasites are posting under the pseudonym damir, better known as dumbir. Dumbir seems to have taken a crash course in english grammar or the more likely explanation is of course there are at least two parrots posting under the same name. “Team dumbir” is apparently composed of a potty-mouthed, pigeon-english speaking anti-american obsessed marxist neanderthal (who ironically likes to refer to Yoani as “team Yoani”)and this more articulate but equally reprehensible pro-castro voicebox who just posted earlier today. There maybe others of course but regardless who the writer is and to what degree his english is intelligible the message is still the same bankrupt pro-castro litany.

  6. THE ALL KNOWING DAMIR SAID: “To all those complaining about the prostitution, here’s why it exists: Because, like everywhere, women love easy money and have no qualms about doing it to get the money.”

    SO ALL YOU LADIES READING THIS BLOG! HERE HE IS IN ALL HIS WISDOM, THE “REVOLUTIONARY RAT”! “ESTO ES EL COLMO” AS THEY SAY IN CUBA!

  7. And to rectify another blatant lie, in the post 14, the tobacco industry in Honduras, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua exists for centuries. No one “smuggled” the seeds from Cuba. They were freely imported over a century ago by Cubans, and local tobacco growers.

    Nothing to do with “Castros Cuba”.

    But such lies and propaganda is expected to flourish here.

  8. To all those complaining about the prostitution, here’s why it exists: Because, like everywhere, women love easy money and have no qualms about doing it to get the money.

    Thailand is one great example how politics have little or nothing to do with it.

    Thailand is an emerging economy and considered as a newly industrialized country. Thailand enjoyed the world’s highest growth rate from 1985 to 1996 – averaging 9.4% annually. In 1997 the economy contracted by 1.9% and increased pressure on Thailand’s currency, the baht, led to a crisis that uncovered financial sector weaknesses. The baht reached its lowest point of 56 to the US dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted by 10.8% that year. This collapse prompted the Asian financial crisis.

    Thailand’s economy started to recover in 1999, expanding 4.2% and 4.4% in 2000, thanks largely to strong exports.

    Thailand exports an increasing value of over $105 billion worth of goods and services annually. Major exports include Thai rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewellery, cars, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world’s no.1 exporter of rice, exporting more than 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually. Rice is the most important crop in the country. Thailand has the highest percentage of arable land, 27.25%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. About 55% of the arable land area is used for rice production.

    Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer parts and cars, while tourism in Thailand makes up about 6% of the economy. Prostitution in Thailand and sex tourism also form a de facto part of the economy. Cultural milieu combined the lure of money have caused prostitution and sex tourism in particular to flourish in Thailand. One estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at US$4.3 billion per year or about three percent of the Thai economy. According to research by Chulalongkorn University on the Thai illegal economy, prostitution in Thailand in the period between 1993 and 1995, made up around 2.7% of the GDP. It is believed that at least 10% of tourist dollars are spent on the sex trade.

    I would draw your attention to the conclusion about the prostitution: “Cultural milieu combined the lure of money have caused prostitution and sex tourism in particular to flourish in Thailand”

    Not the political situation in Thailand, which is full of coup d’etats and vertiginous changes every couple of years, and outside of the regular democratic election process. The cultural millieu and the lure of money are the main factors for women to turn into the prostitutes.

    Much like “yoani”: the desire to have that mobile telephone and the money she receives from The Huffington Post for the senseless pseudo-political nonsense are too strong for her to keep the head up and do the ethical thing.

    It has been like this since the beginning of time. Women love the power, and the money reeks of it…

  9. Nowadays Dominican Republic is the world’s biggest producer of premium cigars, surpassing even Cuba.

    Premium cigar production 2009:

    Dominican Republic 110 million exported
    Cuba 70 millions exported

    If the Castro regime hasn’t decimated the cigar industry and tobacco plantation, probably the Dominican cigar industry, Honduran tobacco, and Ecuadorian leaf, would haven’t grow as much as they have done. The exodus turned those Cuba’s men with tobacco and cigar experience into master craftsmen and blenders, who through their experiments with tobacco found new flavors and recreated those of their youth.

    The majority of Dominican, Honduran and Nicaraguan cigars owed their origins to those Cuban men. Most of the premium tobacco grow in these countries have their origin in the tobacco seeds smuggled out of Cuba by these men.

  10. The cigar manufacturers and tobacco plantation owners have no choice but to leave the island with close to nothing, after their properties were seize and bank accounts frozen by the regime. They settled in different countries around the world. They start anew and due to their efforts the tobacco plantation and non Cuban cigar industry was born, spreading the tobacco seed they have taking with them from Cuba around the world.

    They have been extremely successful in the establishment of tobacco plantation and cigar industry in countries like Dominican Republic, Honduras, Ecuador, Nicaragua and others. Dominican Republic has become the world’s largest producer of premium cigars, surpassing by far Cuba production under the Castros regime.

  11. Hola Elio, pon tus comentarios en la pagina para el español. Esta pagina es para los comentarios en ingles. En la parte de arriba de esta pagina hay una banderita Española, si tocas esa banderita te llevara a la pagina de español.

  12. HOLA YOANI VOY HACERTE LA SEGUNDA EXPOSICION,SOBRE LA TAN CACAREADA “SISTEMA DE SALUD DE LA REVOLUCION”.EN 2004 CON UNOS AMIGOS RECIBI CARTAS DE MI HIJA YUDAISY(GENERACION Y)Y MI HERMANO MAYOR DONDE ME COMUNICABAN LA MAS DESAGRADABLE NOTICIA QUE HE RECIBIDO EN MI VIDA,LA MUERTE DE MI MADRE,EN EL HOSPITAL PROVINCIAL DE PINAR DEL RIO,DONDE RECIDIA MI MADRE.,CUENTA MI HERMANO LAS NECESIDADES QUE PASABAN,PARA QUE MI MADRE,TUVIERA UNA CAMA LIMPIA,Y UNA ALMOHADA,PORQUE LAS QUE TENIA LA CAMA DE MI MADRE,PARECIA UN CD,MI HIJA YUDY,ME CUENTA,HASTA LA COMIDA TENIAN QUE LLEVARLE PORQUE LOLAMENTE LES DECIA QUE NO TENIA ALIMENTOS QUE COCINAR.MI DIFUNTA MADRE FALLECIO EN LA CAMA DE AQUEL INMUNDO LUGAR PREGUNTANDO POR SU HIJO QUE SE ENCONTRABA EN EL DESTIERRO,.MI PREGUNTA DONDE COJONES ESTA LA ASISTENCIA MEDICA DE CUBA?POR QUE HUMBERTO ORTEGA EL HIJO DE PUTA DE NICARAGUA,FUE OPERSE DEL CORAZON A CUBA,TUVE UNA NOVIA QUE TRABAJABA (EN EL HOSPITAL QUE CONOCEMOS POR SALA 8)emergerncia en luyano,una noche que fui a visitarla,me enseno la sala donde se encontraban los terrorista de mlfm(es decir)los terrorista de las guerrillas del salvador,toda la sala llena de terrorista heridos en combate,le pregunte a ella que tiemp llevan aqui me respondio casi un ano de recuperacion,entoces yo me pregunto,tienen mas derechos un terrorista en cuba que los ciudadanos cubanos,si quedan dudas que le pregunten a los presos politicos que fueron torturados en la temible sala carbo sepia,ariel hidalgo guillen el ,mi ncompanero de celda me conto como lo sacaban de madrugada al sereno,y le ponian la comida en el piso esta y muchas mas torturas,son las cualidades que comercia la dictadura y sus quintas columnas en el exterior.todos todos sin dejar ninguno fuera que se quemen en el infierno,no pienso que el creador perdone a semejantes hijos de putas. de usa con amor elio esquivel

  13. hola yoani,voy hacer una alucion,a tu mensaje en la web,sobre la”el sistema de salud en cuba”.yoani yo tengo como argumento dos muy tristes casos familiares y la supuesta “salud gratuita de la dictadura”.MI HERMANO MENOR (QUE EN PAZ DESCANCE),ERA UN JOVEN DE AQUELLOS QUE EL COMUNISMO EN LOS ANOS 80’S ENVIO ESTUDIAR ALEMANIA COMUNISTA,A SU REGRESO MI HERMANO:ANTONIO ESQUIVEL, TRAJO UNA MOTOCICLETA,CON LA MISMA TUVO UN ACCIDENTE,LA POBRE CALIDAD EN EL HOSPITAL DE PINAR DEL RIO,DIO MOTIVO QUE COMO ERA JOVEN QUE SUPUESTAMENTE ESTUDIABA EN EL EXTRANJERO,MERECIA QUE FUERA ENVIADO AL FAMOSO HOSPITAL PROPIEDAD DE FIDEL CASTRO,EL HOSPITAL DE LA HAVANA EL SIME,EN DICHO HOSPITAL SUPUESTAMENTE OPERARON A MI HERMANO MENOR,FUE ENVIADO DE VUELTAS A PINAR DEL RIO,DESPUES DE 7 DIAS,MI HERMANO FALLECIO,PORQUE NO PERMITIERON QUE LOS EQUIPOS MEDICOS QUE LE AYUDABAN A RESPIRAR FUERON DEVUELTOS AL SIME.TREMENDO DOLOR EL DE NOSOTROS,PRINCIPALMENTE EL DE MI MADRE. DE USA CON AMOR ELIO ESQUIVEL

  14. THE CASTROFACISTS DID NOT ALLOW YOANI OR GUILLERMO FARINAS TO TRAVEL IN ODER TO PICK UP THEIR AWARDS ABROAD AND THEY ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT FREEDOM OF TRAVEL? GUESS THEIR HYPOCRACY IS BECOMING MORE APPARENT WITH EACH STATEMENT!!

    “These measures confirm that there is no will to change the policy of blockade and destabilization against Cuba,” the ministry said. “If there exists a real interest in widening and facilitating contacts between our peoples, the United States should lift the blockade and eliminate the restrictions that make Cuba the only country in the world to which North Americans cannot travel.”

    CANADIAN PRESS: Cuba says U.S. lifting of some travel restrictions not enough
    By Paul Haven

    HAVANA — Cuba said Sunday that the Obama Administration’s decision to lift some travel restrictions on students, academics and religious groups and make it easier for Americans to send money were positive steps, but not nearly enough while Washington maintains its 48-year trade embargo on the island.

    The changes announced last week mean that students seeking academic credit and churches and synagogues travelling for religious purposes will be able to go to Cuba. Any U.S. international airport with proper customs and immigration facilities will be able to offer charter services to the island.

    The plan will also let any American send as much as US$2,000 a year to Cuban citizens who are not part of the Castro administration and are not members of the Communist Party. Previously, only relatives could send money.

    “Though the measures are positive,” Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday, “they are well below what was hoped for, have a limited reach and do not change (U.S.) policy against Cuba.”

    The ministry said most of the changes simply bring U.S. policy back to where it was during the Clinton Administration, before President George W. Bush toughened restrictions. They do not alter Washington’s trade embargo, which Cuba refers to as a “blockade.”

    “These measures confirm that there is no will to change the policy of blockade and destabilization against Cuba,” the ministry said. “If there exists a real interest in widening and facilitating contacts between our peoples, the United States should lift the blockade and eliminate the restrictions that make Cuba the only country in the world to which North Americans cannot travel.”

    Under the embargo, American tourists are still prohibited from visiting Cuba and most trade with the island is barred.

    Obama had previously made it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit family and send money home, and cultural exchanges had greatly expanded under his watch. Still, relations between the Cold War enemies remain frosty, in particular over the detention of an American subcontractor held in Cuba since December 2009 on suspicion of spying.

    The changes, announced by the White House on Friday, will be put in place within two weeks. They do not need congressional approval.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5hXN2bJTpYX3W1FcTcWnIQh3aUTyQ?docId=5684319

  15. The cigar black market is a significant although smaller part of a larger and all encompassing black market in Cuba. The black market plays a vital role in the daily lives of Cubans, without it there would no means to acquire adequate subsistence for most Cubans.
    I know of no “free society” or country with an open market economy where the black market plays such an overriding role. The existence of such a market in Cuba serves as a direct indictment of the castros and the utter disaster that is the Cuban economy. The castro government has never been self-sufficient, it has depended on foreign subsidies during it’s entire existence. Fidel with his disastrous mismanagement and utter disregard for his own country destroyed an economy that was for the most part self-sufficient before 1959.

  16. Since the workers paradise that was promised did not come within a thousand miles of coming true, people have to do what they must to stay above water and feed themselves.

    Thise workers have no Union representation (the government workers union is a scheme to fool them). They’re underpaid, under-represented, lack necessities, are paid with funny money, etc. I don’t agree that this happens in free societies to anywhere near the same extent. First of all, as valuable as the cigars are, there might be cameras, security guards, and most importantly, employees, paid with real currency.

    People I know always bring Cuban cigars wrapped in the binder without wrapper leaves. Although delicate, these taste as good if not better than the wrapped ones in the box since the wrapper can affect and be of lesser quality than the filler and binder leaf. No wonder there’s an insatiable market for these.

  17. Simba Sez: This sort of thing resides in practically all societies. All types of illegal and immoral actions will survive as long as their is personal gain for the perpetrator. It is possible they are more rampant in a free society than within the Cuban Dictatorship. However I’m not too sure in this case that Yoani is doing her fellow Cubans any favors by exposing various methods of theft from the government. It seems she might be aiding the government in stopping such behavior by bringing it to their attention as to how theft takes place.

  18. Another clear example of total confusion among the team “yoani” desperados and depressed.

    Read the article carefully and you will actually see that the team “yoani” is accusing the whole Cuban population of being criminals. The accusation goes from the first word to the last, culminating in the last three words of the article: “…who cares…”

    And of course that the team “yoani”, certified supporters of crime (just have a look at their link “Clasificados Cuba” for abundant evidence of their preferences when it comes to legal and not so legal job activities! – one after another, job “offers” are actually criminal activities, ranging from passport fraud to email spamming and “selling” cuban properties to foreigners, when even Cubans can only exchange teh property title…), are belittling their own people. They have been on it since the start of this usa-nian propaganda billboard.

    And they should know! They and their cronnies in Miami are THE crime masters of Miami and Miami Beach.

    Of course, we are talking small time crimes like larceny, beach scavenging, pickpocketing, break and enter. Those criminals (little wonder they “left” Cuba. There was nothing for them to steal there, so they moved on.), small time loser stuf like that. The only thing cuban criminals are capable of.

    And being foot soldiers for anglos and mexicanos.

    “yoani” and the team, you never cease to amase me how much bull you can come up with and believe that anyone, other than those three or four supporters, from family I gather, would believe it.

  19. BBC NEWS:Cuba trial over hospital cold snap deaths begins-17 January 2011

    The trial has begun in Cuba of a number of people accused of responsibility for the deaths of 26 patients in a psychiatric hospital a year ago.

    The accused are reported to include the hospital director and several doctors.

    The patients died of hypothermia and other ailments during a spell of unusually cold weather.

    The deaths exposed failings in Cuba’s free public health system, which the communist government hails as one of the main achievements of its rule.

    ‘Criminal negligence’

    Few details of the trial are being revealed by the Cuban authorities.

    “Once the judicial process is concluded the results will be made public,” the official communist party newspaper Granma said.

    The deaths occurred in January 2010 at the Psychiatric Hospital in the capital, Havana, which houses some 2,500 patients.

    Human rights activists at the time blamed the deaths on “criminal negligence” and the dilapidated state of the hospital.

    The independent Cuban Human Rights Commission said the hospital was in such a bad state that it could not protect people from the cold, citing problems including broken windows, missing doors and a lack of blankets.

    The Cuban health ministry said an investigation had found “various deficiencies”.

    Cuba is proud of its free public healthcare system, which has helped secure health indicators comparable to much richer countries.

    But an economic crisis has exacerbated shortages of medical supplies. The government also blames a decades-long US trade embargo for some of its problems.

    The trial comes as Cuba is introducing major economic changes, encouraging greater private enterprise and laying off more than half-a-million state employees, including some in the health ministry.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12211473

  20. january 17 2011….cuban cigars are the best on the market and it helps thousands of family to put food on the table

  21. Talking about cigars. On September 15, 1960 the Castro regime took over 16 cigar factories, 14 cigarette plants and 20 tobacco warehouses, bringing to an end 300 years of tobacco development that made Cuban cigars the best in the world. The nationalization of the tobacco industry was the beginning of the end of one of the primary source of income for the island. Another Castro brothers’ regime great success story. The brothers’ destructive capacity has no limits.

Comments are closed.