Today is the 50th anniversary of the US embargo of Cuban products. A story has resurfaced in the Daily Mail that originally appeared in the Cigar Aficionado Magazine. The day before President Kennedy signed the law enacting the embargo, he sent Pierre Salinger, his press secretary shopping. His assignment: buy 1000 H. Upmann Cuban cigars. Salinger, a devout Cuban cigar smoker himself, went shopping for his president.
The next morning Salinger came to his White House office at 8 A.M. to find his telephone intercom buzzing. It was the president summoning to the oval office. Upon his arrival in his boss’s office, the President looked up and asked “How’d you do?” Salinger replied that he was successful in purchasing 1200 of the requested cigars. Kennedy broke out into a broad smile and then opened his desk drawer and brought out a document: it was the Executive Order that established the embargo. He signed the order. Now no one else in the United States could repeat Salinger’s feat.
I wonder if Kennedy anticipated that the embargo would extend beyond the rate of his consumption of cigars. Assuming one-a-day, the supply would have lasted until November 3, 1964. Clearly, he misjudged the situation.
It also shows the disregard politicians have to the needs of the common man. In protecting his supply of cigars, Kennedy forgot that he was closing the door for many Cubans in the United States, from ever seeing their families again.