Using taxpayers money La. delegation going to Cuba for business and pleasure

By Jorge Maspons

Escribí esta carta al periodico de Baton Rouge, LA. Es parecida a otra que escribí anteriormente. En aquella ocasión me parece que contribuí a detener un intento de hacer a Nueva Orleans ciudad hermana de Mariel. No he tenido contesta y creo que no la habrá. En el original incluí mi dirección, teléfono y las dos organizaciones que represento. También les incluí copia de la resolución del Concilio de Nueva Orleans, que pasó en 1994.


Mr. Ned Randolph
Advocate Business Writer
Baton Rouge, LA
Ref. Your article, "LA. Delegation Going to Cuba
DED Secretary Takes Heat, Cites Advantages of Trip"
November 24, 2004

Dear Mr. Randolph:

It never ceases to surprise me. Some Americans, and specially members of our government at all levels, local, state and federal, such as Secretary Mike Olivier, (Louisiana Department of Economic Development) are rushing to establish various types of commercial enterprises with one of the most tyranical regimes in the world. We, freedom loving Cuba-Americans have been fighting this dictatorship for more than 44 years; it is a regime just as bad or worse than Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Yet, while some approve of our actions to liberate Iraq, they have, at the same time, no scrupples in trading with Communist Cuba, a terrorist state which have killed untold thousands of people.

There comes a time when we have to place morality and principles over any endeavor which we percive as a good business deal, even when it appears that there are economic benefits. In this case, the people of Cuba will never see any benefits of this "trade mission." since Cubans are not allowed to trade freely. Indeed, Cubans are not free at all to do as they wish.

This is indeed a bad project, however, some individuals will always and only think in terms of dollars and misguided ideas of "trade and economics." All the recent business agreements with Cuba are actually causing more harm, especially to Cubans, since they are only one more tool in the hands of Castro and his thugs to control the people. Many in the free world did not have any problems with blocking South Africa until that nation had a change in government, but not so with Cuba. Not only are they trading with the enemy, in violation of the United States Constitution, they are also prolonging the people's suffering.

The solution to Cuba's problem is not easy and there is a price to pay. Cut all ties, cut all money and trade and really do enforce the embargo which is really a joke since many Americans are violating it. It is better to "die on your feet than to live on your knees." After Cuba is really free to trade, then I will be the first one to support many trade missions.

Jorge A. Maspons

Resolution by the City of New Orleans. Support of Efforts to Defeat Political Oppression


WHEREAS, the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees the rights of all citizens to individual liberty and freedom of expression; and

WHEREAS, the ideals of American Democracy have provided a standard for all nations in acknowledgement of cultural diversity with respect for polítical differences; and

WHEREAS, the foreign policy initiatives of the United States have included alliances with other nations in protection of basic human rights; and

WHEREAS, the President of the United States has clarified that it is in the interest of democracy worldwide that America take steps to aid citizens of oppressed nations to achieve liberty and autonomy through self determination; and

WHEREAS, Cuba serves as a consistent example of an oppressed nation; and

WHEREAS, the actions of the dictator in Cuba have diminished the rights of Cuban citizens seeking basic human and polítical freedom; and

WHEREAS, Cuban citizens continue a mass exodus in search of polítical freedom to America; including to the City of New Orleans; and

WHEREAS, the history of Cuba provides a firm example of a prosperous people socioeconomically and polítically disenfranchised through mililary interdiction by a dictator; and

WHEREAS, the desire to gain freedom from oppression has served as the basis for formation of the United States of America; and

WHEREAS, America continues to lead as an international example of freedom, justice and equality for all people in consideration of their cultural and polítical diversity; now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, That all efforts of the President of the United States and the U. S. Government to defeat polítical oppression and to compel free elections in Cuba are fully supported by this City Council.


YEAS: Carter, Glapion, Hazeur-Distance, Singleton, Terrell, Thomas, and Wilson - 7

NAYS: None



Using taxpayers money La. delegation going to Cuba for business and pleasure

DED secretary defies his own government, cites advantages of trip

A trade delegation from Louisiana will enjoy the attention of Castro's in a mid-December trip.

When economic development Secretary Mike Olivier leads a trade delegation to Cuba next month, he and at least six businesses will be wading through a political brier patch that has guarded the only communist nation in America from U.S. business interests for 40 years. In fact, no other Louisiana official has led such a trip, which officials announced Tuesday will include Buras Mill & Feed Co. of Bogalusa, a provider of livestock feed; Pilgrim's Pride, a national frozen poultry seller with two Louisiana plants; Roy O. Martin Lumber Co. of Alexandria, a telephone pole maker; Louisiana Fish, a Metairie-based fish products company; TMG Inc. of Clinton, a producer of cattle feed and feed ingredients; and Ellington Cotton Co. of Winnsboro, which sells textiles.

Such a trade mission is significant because of the monolithic opposition by powerful Cuban exile groups to dictator Fidel Castro, whose communist regime took power in 1959 eliminating all private property by confiscation.

The U.S. government forbids unlicensed travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba. Trade was banned outright for four decades, until a 2001 exception was made for farm and health-care products, in order to take back some of the money exiles send to the island.

Yet a chorus grows by business leaders and politicians for loosening the embargo for humanitarian reasons. States eying Castro's inevitable demise are also starting to line up for a potential economic bonanza in case Cuba returns to democracy and free enterprise.

"If you roll the clock back, before Cuba was the largest trading partner with New Orleans until Castro took over," said Larry Collins, director of international services for the Department of Economic Development. "There's a great affinity."

Cuba would be a natural consumer of Louisiana rice, seafood and other products, economic development officials say. The only problem is that the international debt of Castro's government is over 40 billions, with Cuban agricultural and industrial almost non existent due to abandon during the Soviet subsidy years

The companies invited into the delegation represent industries that have been approved by the U.S. government.

"This is a group that's a manageable size. We wanted to make sure we can help them connect," Collins said.

Before becoming Gov. Kathleen Blanco's economic development secretary, Olivier has shown his simpaty to Castro's government and attended several trips to Cuba as the top official of the Harrison County Economic Development Commission in Mississippi.

When he leads the Louisiana delegation there Dec. 14-18, it will mark the first such trip as a Louisiana official, Collins said.

But more trips with business leaders will be planned between December and spring, when Blanco may lead a formal delegation, Olivier also has said. Every trip to the island has been filled with parties and special attention by Castro officials.

"Because this is such a controversial issue … the ports on their own early on had made trips to Cuba to explore the possibility of opening a trade route," Collins saidin spite that Castro has no credit or ways of pay the amount of trade that any other nation in the area is able to do.

Engaging with Castro for any reason is just unacceptable for some exiles and very risky for every economist. They cite Castro's dismal record of human rights violations and property seizures.

Just recently, in 2003 he jailed dozens of journalists and dissidents in a crackdown on free speech and shoot against the wall three young blacks that try to reach US in a ferry boar.

"Cuba is feudal state, owned and controlled by the clan of one man," said George Fowler, a Cuban born exile. "You do business in Cuba, you're doing business with Fidel Castro and his gangsters."

He said Olivier is wasting taxpayer money on a trade mission, when nations in Central and South America can better use our resources.

Fowler, a lawyer in New Orleans, is a member of the politically powerful Cuban American National Foundation.

"On Dec. 1st, 2nd and 3rd, I'm chairing the Tulane Latin American Law Institute -- inviting people from Latin America who we can do business with that aren't terrorist states," Fowler said.

The tide of history, however, suggests to many that Cuba will open eventually, and that those who are aggressive now will be poised to capitalize on it taking the opportunity of use cheap labor in partnership with the government, China style.

U.S. trade to Cuba has grown exponentially since 2001, from $2.3 million to $106 million in 2004, from states like Alabama, Florida and Illinois thanks to the money sent by exiles to their families.

Trade is expected to top $133.8 million next year, according to the World Trade Center.

"We are behind the curve for southern states in doing things with Cuba," Collins said.

"His people have told him about the criticism (in Louisiana), and he's biting the bullet," Schreiber said. "First of all, Castro is not going to last forever, although it almost seems like he is. When he goes it's all going to fall."

He added, "You can't hold your finger in the dike forever."

Yet that's precisely why Olivier should not go, Fowler said.

The Cuban people will resent Louisiana for lining the pockets of Castro, the longest-standing dictator in the world responsible for thousands of political assassinations, Fowler said.

"Forming a relationship now with the people who are empowering Cuba is associating with known terrorists or criminals. I don't think the Cuban people in and out of Cuba are going to forget it."

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