TOBACCO: The Cuban Stogie Crisis

The Cuban Stogie Crisis

Are Cuba's famed cigars turning into second-rate smokes? The country may be facing enormous economic and political problems, but that question is provoking passionate debate. Last week Francisco Padron, the director of Cuba's state-owned tobacco company, proposed a televised taste test to snuff out speculation that Cuba's cigar factories have been hurrying the curing process and producing mediocre products.

Padron's challenge stems from a dispute with an ex-customer, Zino Davidoff of Geneva, whose company had been buying about 11 million of Cuba's 70 million cigars a year. Davidoff, 84, canceled the arrangement last year and shifted production to the Dominican Republic...

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