1951 Cuban cigars to dominate London market

During January of 1951 – Emmanuel Theodore Casdagli, representing the UK  Board of Trade, met with the Cuban Ambassador along with Cuban Trade delegation lead by  Dr. Andrea Vargas-Gomez. This was primarily to seal a trade of over 5 million tons of Cuban Sugar.  Totally unexpectedly the Cuban Ambassador asked Emmanuel whether, as a gesture of goodwill, the UK would agree to a resumption of imports of Havana Cigars which, at that time,   had ceased completely. The Cubans wanted importation licences granted in the region of £100,000 ( around £2,000,000 in today’s value – 2016  ).

These discussions were  very sensitive for both countries. Any agreement with the UK by Cuba would be dismantling the preferential  tariff agreements the  Cubans had arranged with the USA. Likewise any such agreement with the Cuban government by the UK would be perceived as damaging to UK trade with the commonwealth.

Havana tobacco was particularly sensitive as firstly a luxury import of this nature would not be favoured by the current UK socialist leaning UK government under Clement Attlee and secondly it would devastate the protected Jamaican tobacco industry at that time UK’s prime importer.

Emmanuel knew the political implications were huge and so, on the  undertaking that the Cubans would undertake that there would be no publicity in regards the cigar importation until the deal was done , – or “Hush Hush” in Emmanuel’s words , – the go ahead by the highest authorities was given .

Unfortunately Emmanuel and the Cuban delegation were ambushed by a certain Mr. Evans of the Daily Express – see conversation in Emmanuel’s memoirs below. The whole deal was exposed in the front pages the Daily Express. But nevertheless Emmanuel pushed it through and the Cuban dominance of the UK premium Cigar market resumed. The rest as we say is history …



MIAMI — Luis Andres Vargas Gomez, a former economist, diplomat and anti-Fidel Castro activist who spent 21 years in Cuban prisons, has died of kidney failure. He was 87.

Vargas Gomez, the grandson of Gen. Maximo Gomez, a hero of Cuba’s wars for independence, died Monday at his home in suburban Coral Gables.

He was a great Cuban, a fighter until the end,” said Juan Perez Franco, president of Brigade 2506, a group of veterans from the 1961 Bay of Pigs.

Vargas Gomez served as Cuba’s ambassador to the United Nations shortly after Castro took power in 1959, but quit two months later because of a political falling
out with the Cuban leader. Vargas Gomez moved to Coral Gables in 1960 and was involved in the planning of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, serving as director of
a clandestine radio station.

Five days before the invasion, Vargas Gomez slipped into Cuba with his wife and dog. He was captured after he was refused asylum at Ecuador’s embassy. His wife
and the Dalmatian managed to return to South Florida.

He couldn’t leave his dog and he found it difficult to hide with the dog,” said Radio Marti director Salvador Lew, a friend of Vargas Gomez. “But that just shows
you what kind of a humane person he was. He had the blood of his great ancestors.”

He was originally sentenced to death by firing squad, but the punishment was commuted to 30 years. Vargas Gomez ended up serving 21 years at various prisons
before his release in 1982. He was allowed to leave Cuba when civil rights activist Jesse Jackson persuaded Castro to release him and 25 other Cuban prisoners in

Once in South Florida, Vargas Gomez served as a college professor and international trade consultant for Miami’s Department of Economic Development and
International Trade.

He was active in Miami’s Cuban-American community, helping form Unidad Cubana, a coalition of anti-Castro organizations, in 1991. He also wrote a column for
El Nuevo Herald from 1986 to 1999.

More about Luis Andres Vargas Gomez click here and here