Every cigar smoker I’ve ever met desires Cuban cigars.
For many decades, Cuba was consistently producing the absolute best cigars in the world. Then overnight, America was stripped of one of its favorite luxury items.
So what exactly happened? Why are Cuban cigars illegal in the U.S.? Let’s first flashback to Cuba in 1960.
Cuba’s dictator Fulgencio Batista had been ousted during the Cuban Revolution two years prior.
Fidel Castro had begun to nationalize business, including American-owned oil refineries. Castro took over these refineries with no compensation given to the United States. To retaliate, America decided to implement an embargo against all goods being sold to and imported from Cuba. That, of course, included Cuban cigars.
The official Cuban Embargo began in October of 1960. Cuba was now fully committed to becoming a communist country and all businesses were being nationalized, meaning the government now owned them, not the private citizens.
This was during the rise of the Cold War, when the U.S. government’s number one priority was to prevent the spread of communism. The U.S. took particular exception to this, as Cuba is only 70 miles from the tip of Florida.
The action the U.S. took was not military, it was economic. By imposing an embargo and preventing any goods from being exported to or imported from Cuba, the U.S. believed they would eventually wear down the Cuban leadership. Fifty-six years later, we’re still waiting for this to work.
In recent years, there have been modifications to the embargo. In 2000, President Bill Clinton started to allow “Humanitarian” aid to be exported to Cuba. Now select goods, such as medicine, are allowed to be exported. Even with the embargo still in place, the United States still accounts for approximately 6.6% of all imports that Cuba receives.
A big step in removing the Embargo against Cuba has been the allowance of travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba, as well as the normalization of Diplomatic relations.
As recently as December of 2014, the United States and Cuba have begun the process of reopening the United States Embassy. More business is starting to be transacted, as well, between the two countries. In January of 2015, President Obama further loosened the strict embargo against Cuba by allowing U.S. citizens to bring back up to $100 worth of cigars for personal consumption.
Importing Cuban cigars for resale is still illegal for U.S. citizens. With Cuban relations warming up, there is reason to be optimistic about the embargo being fully lifted in the near future.