Huffing and Puffing Against Cigar Taxes

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Nothing says success better than a handmade Dominican Republic PG cigar and a tumbler of rich Brugal rum. But for the island nation's ambassador, Flavio Darío Espinal, the victory was short-lived. He called a party last week to celebrate President Bush's veto of expanding a child health insurance program that would have added up to $3 to cigars imported into the United States. But the fete came the day before the Democrats moved to revive their plan. "We are really worried," he tells us. The fear: The tax would kill the country's famous mom and pop cigar makers. Ditto in Honduras and Nicaragua. "You can't argue tobacco versus child insurance," concedes Honduran Ambassador Roberto Flores Bermúdez. "But that's not the issue. This hurts our workers." They're up for another fight, though. Espinal tells us that he's teaming with Bermúdez and Nicaragua's ambassador to lobby against the tax. "We do find receptiveness," says Bermúdez.