Cuba Business

Doing business in Castro’s lair - Opinion

Posted December 08, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Business.

Louisiana has something to gain from trade with Cuba, but it’s only money. It certainly is not moral stature.

With global trade increasingly divorced from moral obligations, there seems little practical reason to object to a trade delegation attending a conference in Cuba.

Louisianians, though, who suffered from the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, know any amount of trade doesn’t make up for the depredations of the Castro regime. Thousands have died or been imprisoned by the communist government during the past half-century, and repression is still the order of the day in Cuba.

Castro critics told The Times-Picayune that the state should not be sponsoring trade missions to a “terrorist state.” Cuba officially is designated a sponsor of international terrorism by the State Department.

Yet the reality is that many states and nations trade with Cuba, as well as equally reprehensible regimes. The communists in China, for example, are guilty of crimes against humanity, but it is commonplace for Western nations to invest in Shanghai or Beijing.

Given this amoral practice of international business, why not some Louisiana trade with Cuba?

Louisiana’s deep-water ports are the departure point for roughly half of all agricultural products bound for Cuba. Because the long-standing trade embargo has been loosened in recent years by Congress, agricultural or medical products may be traded, along with small amounts of other commodities, such as wood products or paper.

“Just by judging from the statistics, it does appear that Louisiana’s place in the export of goods (to Cuba) could get bigger,” said Gene Schreiber, executive director of the World Trade Center in New Orleans. The Havana trip is sponsored by Alimport, Cuba’s agency in charge of food and agricultural trade.

Castro usually attends the conference, but it’s unclear whether the Louisiana contingent will meet with him.

We hope, though, that Louisiana’s delegation will avoid any irrational exuberance about the nature of the regime it is visiting.

John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said that Cuba is known to gloat about the attendance at the conferences, to “present them as increasing numbers in opposition to U.S. policies.”

The Louisiana delegation is there on business, period. It ought to avoid anything that smacks of politics.

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