President John F. Kennedy secured for himself 1,200 Cuban cigars just hours before enacting the Cuban trade embargo in 1962. Before signing the embargo, Kennedy requested his head of press, Pierre Salinger, to get him “1,000 Petit Upmanns.”
Salinger recalled Kennedy summoning him into his office to see if he could provide 'some help' in securing 'a lot of cigars' by the following morning. In hindsight, it is evident that Kennedy wanted to stockpile the Cuban products before he banned their import.
“The next morning, I walked into my White House office at about 8am, and the direct line from the President's office was already ringing. He asked me to come in immediately,” said Salinger.
Kennedy was pleased to learn that Salinger was successful and had gotten him 1,200 Cuban cigars.
Salinger remembers, “He took out a long paper which he immediately signed. It was the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States. Cuban cigars were now illegal in our country.”
The story of Kennedy’s cigars reemerged in 2012 as the United States rolled into its 50th year of trade embargo with Cuba. The embargo is a source of political debate today.
Supporters believe that the trade restrictions are justified as Cuba continues its “repressive” form of government, while critics are vocal that it has hurt the Cuban population rather than the government itself.