Black Market Cigar Purveyors Hoping For Castro's Full Recovery

Faced with the possible prospect of the drastic devaluation of personal collections of Cuban cigars, black market purveyors of the prized and widely sought-after illegal import are uniting in prayers and best wishes to Cuban President Fidel Castro for a full recovery and support of his social and policies antagonistic to U.S. interests.

With Castro ill, power has been temporarily ceded to his brother, Raul. Some fear the transition or another one in the near future could open legal trade between the two nations, a move that would be disastrous for many traders, such as cigar aficionado Morrie Duleson, III.

"This is going to be to fine cigars what the end of prohibition was to bathtub gin," said the distraught Duleson about the remote possibility that Cuba will once again be engaged in the U.S. economic sphere. "The possibility that Cuba could start seeing millions and billions of U.S. dollars pumped into its small-potatoes economy is a horrific thought, given that I was planning to pay for my retirement with these Cuban cigars, which I've been saving for just the right time to sell. I pray that Fidel recovers in full and promises to rule unflinchingly for at least another decade."

Duleson remains nervous that even if Castro survives this crisis, the value of his collection of Cohiba and Trinidad Cuban cigars may still decline if Castro's reign begins to look untenable, or if the central Cuban government shows any signs of warming up to the United States.

"It's not that I support Communism or autocracy -- I'm just supporting my investment," Duleson explained nervously, adding that he was grateful our interview was not taking place over the telephone, where it would undoubtedly be tracked. "What could be more capitalistic than that?"

Added Duleson: "Viva Cuba!"

Although most experts dismiss the possibility of an abrupt alteration of Cuba's stance towards the U.S. just because of the theoretical loss of Castro as "pretty fucking remote", those who have long been involved in the illegal cigar trade, such as Duleson, say they have a keen and unique perspective on the country's inner political workings.

"For example, just the fact that Fidel is out and Raul is in is a little unnerving for me," he said. "Raul is just a more friendly name -- he sounds like the distinguished older gentleman you might meet at a cigar-smoking party. A man named Raul is not a man you can trust to continue to antagonize the United States."

But some argue that even in the arguably unlikely event that Cuba would become friendly with the U.S., or even adopt a more capitalistic nature, the quality of the cigars would not suffer, even if their value dropped.

"More money or a capitalistic system would hardly alter the fine construction of a Cuban cigar," argued Samuel Jones, a porch-sitter. "People make things because they like to and they're proud of their work. That's why American-made products are best. Except for cigars."

People like Duleson, however, simply don't agree, and some are even engaging in plots to ensure continued tensions between the two countries.

"Don't tell, but I'm working on a little thing that I like to call 'Bay of Pigs 2: Electric Boogaloo,'" said Duleson in a whisper. "And with a robotic John F. Kennedy on my side, I'm sure I can't lose...or win."

As a backup plan, he is currently taking a cigar-making class, and hopes to one day reverse-engineer the secret of the "Cuban method".

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