Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Iran in Nicaragua. Could it spell woes for cigar makers?

Having recently returned from a visit to Esteli, Nicaragua, a headline on the Fox News channel this morning caught my attention. It was about how Iran is "pushing" into Nicaragua with backing from - guess who? - good ol' Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

Recently, Iran opened a diplomatic mission in Managua, Nicaragua's capital. This has U.S. State Department officials concerned about Iran's presence in Nicaragua, particularly with regard to Iran's ties to Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guard, who are already operating in Latin America, and who may allegedly be tied to certain homicide bombings in Argentina.

So let me call your attention to the source of the headline. It comes from a story by Todd Bensman in The San Antonio Express-News titled, Iran making push into Nicaragua.

In his highly comprehensive report, Mr. Bensman writes: ...a new partnership with Nicaragua's Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, Iran and its Venezuelan allies plan to help finance a $350 million deep-water port at Monkey Point on the wild Caribbean shore, and then plow a connecting "dry canal" corridor of pipelines, rails and highways across the country to the populous Pacific Ocean.

I see this as a red flag, but not only to the U.S. What also worries me is how this "partnership" could eventually affect the production and cost of handmade premium cigars in Nicaragua and other tobacco-producing nations in Central and South America. Today Nicaragua. Tomorrow Honduras?

- G.K.

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