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Venezuela seeks to rekindle cigar industry's ashes - washingtonpost.com 

Jump to full article: Reuters, 2006-11-08
Author: Christian Oliver and Fabian Cambero / Reuters


When Venezuela's Taoist Defense Minister, Raul Baduel, met his U.S. counterpart last month, he produced a characteristically meditative solution to ill-feeling between Washington and Caracas.

A fine cigar.

Donald Rumsfeld demurred, protesting his wife would not let him smoke. But makers of Venezuelan cigars insist Rumsfeld missed a little-known treat by not sampling tobaccos they reckon can compete with the big names from Cuba.

"Why should Venezuela be known for oil and pretty Miss Worlds but not for a good cigar?" said Miguel Patino, president of the Bermudez tobacco factory in the tuna-canning port of Cumana, the first colonial city in South America. . . .

Venezuelan cigars offer a legal taste of the Caribbean to U.S. citizens, who are forbidden from buying cigars from communist Cuba. Despite President Hugo Chavez's rhetorical battles with Washington, there is no tobacco embargo.

Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, pioneer of natural history in South America, shared some of Patino's belief in the potential of Venezuelan tobacco, collecting seeds in the early 19th century.

But since then, the industry has never rivaled that of Caribbean neighbors and very few Venezuelan cigars are sold in the United States. . . .

New York lawyer Michael DeLisa, whose Venezuelan grandmother rolled cigars, set up a factory in Cumana in 1997, exporting the vast majority of his annual output, as well as other brands from Cumana, such as "Crispin Patino" from the Bermudez factory.

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