On December 17, 2014, USA - Cuba detente negotiations suddenly appeared, with much speculation and questions since, surrounding Cuba’s primary exports, tourism and cigars. “Will you go?” “Will this be a new boom to cigars and your business?” are two questions I’ve heard every week since the President’s announcement. My answers are in short: I don’t know.
The big question among consumers, retailers and manufacturers in our trade is of course, “the new boom”. And the answer, once the legalities are worked out, lies in execution of the production, distribution and marketing of that product. Brands and production quality from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua (among others) are already so well established, that Cuban cigars will hardly receive a red carpet with a free pass to the front of the line. In short, we’ll see.
Will I go? That depends. I’d like to go visit a beautiful island paradise that makes great cigars, and more importantly respects and celebrates its citizens’ human, natural and political rights. Unfortunately, the President’s address on this topic is vague and ill-defined. Perhaps they have it all worked out – but in absence of that information, I’m hereby taking the liberty of making some suggestions.
Among the rights I like to observe and enjoy on my visit are the right to due process, including probable cause, and a trial by a jury of one’s peers, under the law. I’d like to know that I and my hosts are not potential subjects of cruel and unusual punishment, including long incarceration for political speech. And I’d like that speech to be free to make, whether individually or assembled in a group.
And when the government errs, I’d like to see the opportunity for a redress of grievances, without risk of further violations to life and property. I’d like to visit, perhaps even buy a condo, a place that respects the right to private property, without having the fear of unreasonable search and seizure. And finally, I’d like my citizen hosts to have the right to keep and bear arms, so that when the government does err, does violate inalienable human, natural, and political freedoms, they may stand firm in protection and preservation of their rights.
In return for our consumption, tourism and investment capital, I sincerely hope the current administration secures these rights. Immediate release of political prisoners, and the restoration of private property confiscated from Cuban citizens under the Agrarian Reform Law of May, 1959 would be a good start.
Under these conditions, I’d love to go to Cuba. And after that, I’d love to go to Venezuela.
Kurt Van Keppel
President, XIKAR, Inc.