One of the only things that the Cuba embargo has accomplished has been an unusual burst of creativity by U.S. citizens in figuring out clever ways to smuggle Cuban cigars into the United States.  There is, of course, the method of ordering Cuban cigars over the Internet from a Canadian merchant.  And not to be forgotten are the helpful tobacconists in London who will relabel and repackage Cuban cigars.  But nothing beats homing pigeons.  Seriously, homing pigeons.

An article in today’s New York Times details an “art exhibit” entitled “Trading with the Enemy” which involves, among other things, training homing pigeons to fly from Havana to Key West with cigars strapped to their backs — flying mules, as it were.

The artist for this project, acknowledging the potential sanctions issues involved, offers a coy — or, some might say, stupid — response:

“How those cigars end up on the birds, I can’t say,” he said, carefully. “If a bird ends up in my pigeon lofts, that happens to have a cigar from Cuba, and there also happens to be a pigeon that has a video camera on it, that shows footage of birds flying from Havana to Key West with cigars — yeah, I can’t really say how that happened.”

The OFAC response to this dog-ate-my-homework story was equally articulate:


The OFAC spokesperson subsequently had second thoughts about this response:

In a statement, she added that importing or dealing in Cuban goods is generally prohibited for “persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Oooookkkkay, so we all agree that the artist might be in deep pigeon guano if OFAC comes after him, but what about the pigeons? Are they U.S. persons under the rules? Can they sign a consent agreement? Can they be added to the SDN List as Cigar Kingpigeons?

Actually, I think it’s a good sign that the OFAC response seems to indicate that the agency has better things to do than chase stogie-toting homing pigeons. Just wait, however, until Ileana Ross-Lehtinen finds out. I can’t wait for the hearings and watching her try to put the pigeons under oath.