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Weekend Roundup – Coke Bust in the Dominican, (More) Corruption in Cuba, and Senate Bill 1461

I scoured and scoured Google News in order to bring you the most interesting cigar-related news stories out there, so without further ado, here’s this week’s roundup!

First off, we have a story from the Dominican Republic. According to Dominican Today, the National Drugs Control Agency (DNCD) arrested Cesar Teófilo Soriano Salazar, owner of the “Don Cesar Café Boutique” cigar bar in Santo Domingo, for his supposed connection to a drug trafficking ring that had been shipping narcotics to Europe. This is the same drug trafficking ring that had recently (unsuccessfully) attempted to ship 419 kilos of cocaine from East Haina Port, Dominican Republic to Spain.

And if that wasn’t a big enough P.R. blow to the world of Dominican cigars, that very same container of cocaine was allegedly packed by Luis Antonio Reyes Colon, the owner of a small cigar company, who is also being held in the case. I’d hate to think that any reputable Dominican companies are involved in narcotics trafficking. This kind of “business” puts a pretty huge blotch on the cigar world in general, given that a huge number of cigars (especially ones sold in the U.S.) come from the Dominican Republic. My guess is that as more arrests are made, we’ll have a better idea of just how high up this thing goes, though I’m hoping these two were a fluke and the bigger players in the Dominican cigar industry were smart enough to steer clear of it.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, corruption abounds, though thanks to Cuba’s tight-lipped, state-run news media, we don’t know many specifics. According to the Miami Herald, several higher-ups in ETECSA, the state-run telecommunications monopoly, are being investigated on corruption charges. This comes on the heels of an investigation into Habanos S.A., which yielded just under a dozen arrests earlier this year. As I said, facts are scarce, but maybe I’ll come back to this story once the Cuban news media is allowed to report on it and facts become a little clearer.

On a much lighter note, the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2011 (H.R. 1639) was introduced to the senate as S. 1461 last week. This bill would protect the premium cigar industry from being constantly harassed by the FDA, who, under a new provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, would have jurisdiction over premium cigars. If the FDA had their way, they would have the power to regulate packaging, inspect blends and demand samples from manufacturers, ban flavored cigars, stifle advertisement, and essentially pull the plug on any creativity in the industry. Anyway, there has never been a better time than now to contact your senators and representatives and tell them to keep the FDA’s hands off of your cigars!

And that’s it for today’s roundup. If you think I’ve missed anything, feel free to post it in a comment below.

Addendum: According to an article on dias.com.do, Luis Antonio Reyes Colon was freed following demonstrations demanding his release.