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RUSH: Here’s a story from the Scripps Howard News Service. I thought they were out of business. I thought Scripps Howard had shut down. Obviously they haven’t, one of those rare occasions I was wrong. ‘With suspicious haste, Cuba’s communist government abruptly announced it would let private farmers cultivate their crops on government land. Now we have an inkling why: The government wanted to get out while the getting was good. … Last year’s coffee harvest was the worst in history and this fall the island will produce only 6,700 tons, according to an agriculture ministry official quoted by Granma. And the government says it can’t afford the $40 million-plus a year to make up the shortfall through imports. … The Communist Party newspaper Granma is bracing the population for a severe coffee shortage. Cuba was once a major coffee exporter. At the time of the revolution it was producing 60,000 tons annually and, as recently as the ’70s, 28,000 to 30,000 tons a year.

‘The Associated Press said the newspaper cited ‘inefficiency and negligence’ for the poor production and that to improve output the government had stopped the Communist practice of using ill-trained students to harvest the crop. The AP notes that super-strong shots of espresso heavily laced with sugar are a way of life in Cuba. And there’s still more bad news on that front. This year’s harvest in a country that once led the world in sugar production was just 1.23 million tons, the worst since 1905.’ (interruption) They have screwed up cigars, yes. I’ll tell you how they’ve screwed up cigars in just a second. ‘Fidel Castro recently told an American journalist, ‘The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us any more.” Now, folks, this is a teachable moment, it’s an object lesson. This is what happens eventually when communists take over private enterprise. There’s an old joke. You’ve probably heard this old joke. What would happen if the communists took over the Sahara Desert? In 50 years there would be a shortage of sand. And it’s true.

Look what’s happening here in Cuba. The coffee harvest has been declining steadily and dramatically under the Castro regime since the revolution. Now there’s going to be shortages and they don’t have the money to buy coffee to import from other countries. The communist socialist Marxist paradise has shortages of almost everything, and yet America intellectuals keep telling us that Cuba should be our model. Sugar is down, and that was a big export, coffee, rum. Here’s the dirty little secret. This is what’s sad about this. Cuba just happens to be located in a place where the soil pH, the amount of sunlight, the humidity, average temperature, rainfall, produce some of the finest stuff that grows in soil ever, from sugar to coffee, to sugar cane, to tobacco. Cuba, up until the Fuente family figured it out in the Dominican, Cuba was the only place in the world where all three tobacco leaves for a cigar could be grown in one country: the binder, the filler, and the wrapper. Nowhere else in the world was that possible, and the Fuentes worked as hard as they could for years, and the Fuentes, they are OpusX brand, all three elements of the cigar grown on their plantations there in the Dominican. And it wasn’t because the communists did anything right. It was just that’s where the stuff was the best.

What has been shown is that even communism will destroy the absolute best. It’s like for the longest time Bordeaux, where it was, the geographic aspects and the meteorological aspects, the best wine grapes without comparison grew there. Now, Australia is making great strides, Napa, California, Oregon, Washington, great strides, people have been working very hard, but I was asked about tobacco crop. There used to be… (sigh) I’m going to make some enemies when I say this, but if you could get hold of a Cuban cigar even up to 1985, even up to 1990, but certainly get one from the fifties, sixties, that have been kept — no finer tasting cigar in the world. And even domestic manufacturers will tell you that, but when the cigar fad hit, Marvin Shanken, my buddy, started a magazine, Cigar Aficionado. Who ever thought that a magazine on cigars would become one of the leading lifestyle magazines in the history of America, and it has. Marvin Shanken, he also published the Wine Spectator. It caused a demand on cigars. Manufacturers popped up all over the world, started creating them and marketing them. And for a while it was chic to smoke a cigar everywhere, and so the Cubans, their secret was they didn’t overproduce.

They aged the tobacco, a Cuban cigar, by the time you bought it had been rolled three to five years prior. When the fad hit, the Cubans wanted to take advantage of it, they were rushing cigars to the market the month they had been rolled and it wasn’t long before people figured out, they’re just not as good as they used to be. And they haven’t come back. They’re still nowhere near as good as they were, even as recently as 1994, 1991, you get hold of a Cuban cigar in 1994 — somebody who is an aficionado will pay you if you can prove it a huge amount of money for a box of those things. Now, I am told, I haven’t had a Cuban cigar in many, many moons. I’m told that they’re starting to come back, but still not anywhere near because the fad’s dropped off, worldwide demand is not as high as it used to be and the feminazis and everybody else have moved in. You can’t smoke anywhere now, sometimes even in your own house. You have to go outside, which is fine, but the demand is less now, so the quality has come back a little bit.

But all it illustrates is that communists destroy even the most perfect of creation. They just destroy it by virtue of — I mean, back in the old days, I wish I’d have been alive and smoking cigars, you could order custom-made cigars, boxes, labels, blends of tobacco, all you wanted. You couldn’t get ’em here, embargo here, but you’d get ’em in London, order from Dunhill or what have you. But anyway, every crop coming out of Cuba, pfft, worthless now, and it used to be among the world’s best, from sugar to tobacco to coffee, you name it.

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