Erwin Harris, ad executive who seized Cuban assets, dies at 91

tags: World War II, Erwin Harris, Cuba, diplomatic history

Erwin Harris left behind a respectable record of achievement as an advertising executive, an estimable collection of Chinese antiquities (his lifelong hobby), a loving family and a remarkable if little-remembered role in the tortured history of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba in the early 1960s.

Mr. Harris, a Yonkers-born World War II veteran who died in Miami on March 9 at 91, probably did not tip the scales of history. But from 1960 to 1961, armed with nothing more than a court order from a Florida judge and accompanied by local sheriff’s deputies, he scoured the East Coast confiscating Cuban government property — including the state airplane Fidel Castro parked in New York while on a visit.

It was a dogged mission in pursuit of compensation for what he said Mr. Castro owed him: $429,000 in unpaid bills stemming from an advertising campaign promoting Cuban tourism....

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