Hours before the Cuban trade embargo in 1962 blocking all trade between the United States of America and Cuba, the president knew one of his favorite hobbies was about to be obliviated. That is the smoking of Cuban cigars, because how would they be brought into the country? Prices would shoot up and eventually there would be none left. But of course, being the president, John F Kennedy had the insider information. Just hours before the signing of the embargo he put his plan into action.
He kindly asked one of his team, Pierre Salinger, to go get him 1,000 Petit Upmann. This information was first revealed in 1992 when Salinger interviewed for the Cigar Aficionado magazine. Salinger explained how he was called to the president’s office and asked if he was willing to help him secure thousands of cigars before the morning. With the hindsight of the following events, he now knows that it was quite obvious Kennedy wanted to stockpile as many Cuban products as he could.
Salinger walked into the office the following morning at 8 AM, the direct line from Kennedy’s office was already ringing, he quickly answered and gave his successful report. Salinger had been able to buy the president 1,200 Cuban cigars. It was only then that Kennedy signed the official decree that banned the import of all Cuban products into the United States. Effectively, Cuban cigars were now an illegal product to have in the country.
This is a story that has become famous over time, especially as the Cuban trade embargo is still ongoing with it now being in its 58th year. It is a highly debated subject in U.S. politics today, with many arguing that the trade restrictions are justified due to the way the Cuban government and army continues to repress its people. The counter-argument being that the trade embargo doesn’t hurt the Cuban government itself and that the Cuban population is the victim here.
All in all, it is a funny story that shows that Kennedy’s love for high-quality cigars was so overpowering he had to use his position to leverage his insider information for himself. Some will call it an abuse of power and others will label it as a man’s love for cigars.