Cigars, travel on horizon for Americans if tensions ease with Cuba

Jalaluddin Mughal, Photo Editor, SCC Chronicle

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“Our relations are like a bridge in war-time. I am not going to talk about who blew it up—I think it was you who blew it up. The war has ended and now we are reconstructing the bridge, brick by brick, 90 miles from Key West to Varadero beach. It is not a bridge that can be reconstructed easily, as fast as it was destroyed. It takes a long time. If both parties reconstructed their part of the bridge, we can shake hands without winners or losers.” –Raul Castro to Senator McGovern and James Abourezk, April 8, 1977.

Fidel Castro, soon after taking over as dictator of Cuba in 1959, nationalized all foreign assets in the country. Besides establishing trade deals with Soviet Russia, Castro increased taxes on all American exports. The United States reciprocated by lowering their import quota for Cuban sugar, seizing Cuban assets throughout the U.S., imposing a near-full trade embargo and cutting off diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana. Since that day, the neighboring countries have had very tense relations.

President John F. Kennedy imposed the embargo in 1962 after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The embargo had devastating consequences for the Cuban economy, which was dependent on trade with the United States. Cuba, which was which was the third wealthiest Latin American country in the world before 1959, lost $1.126 trillion during the 50 years of U.S. embargo.

President Obama’s recent announcement of ongoing talks to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba set off a boon of interest within the U.S. business community due to the great economic and business potential of the deal.

Besides investing in infrastructure, the Cuban cigar is the main attraction for many importers and Americans that have never smoked one.

 While the potential for many American business opportunities are on the horizon, a number of challenges still exist. U.S. investors and entrepreneurs may be considered ‘latecomers’ as other countries such as Spain, the Netherlands and Canada are and have been involved in developing and conducting business in Cuba for many years. Despite this, normalization of relations between the neighboring countries will allow American tourists to travel to Cuba after almost 50 years, an experience that not many Americans can boast of.