Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is in Havana on a trade mission. While Louisiana ports ship more food to Cuba than the ports in any other U.S. State, that's not enough for Gov. Blanco. The Sun-Sentinel reports she also wants the food shipped to have been grown in her state.
State officials and local agribusiness executives are hoping a visit from their chief executive will help cash in on lucrative sales that have made Cuba the United States' 25th largest export market.
Blanco is accompanied by a delegation of 30, including rice growers, cotton farmers and even folks who raise catfish. The delegation plans to meet with fidel's food importing agency, Alimport, and other trade officials.
Of course, Louisiana is not the only state looking to make money from fidel:
Louisiana's ports have consistently topped all others in Cuba trade, shipping a total of $445 million in goods to Cuba between 2001 and 2004, according to the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which monitors exports to Cuba. However, Louisiana ports have recently lost some Cuba business to competing ports in Alabama and Texas, which rank second and third. Florida ports rank fourth.
The U.S. is now Cuba's 7th largest trading partner. Some blockade.
So,what, you might say. We are selling food to Cuba, so now the poor Cubans will eat better. But no. Scripts-Howard (scroll down) reports otherwise.
As U.S. agriculture interests export more food to Cuba, residents are still forced to feed themselves on paltry rations while tourists eat the high-quality imports.
Of course, if you've read this site regularly, you know about the millionaire cigar smokers who visit the island to feast on lobster bisque, caviar and oysters, Canadian salmon and caribou, all washed down with fine wine.
According to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a business group that has researchers on the island, food exports have risen from $4.3-million in 2001 to $391-million in 2004. It says the trade has generated a billion dollars for the agricultural economy in the U.S.
The group says 10-percent of the food is used in tourist hotels and the rest sold in stores. But the Cuban people get ration cards allowing them two pounds a month of a mixture of ground meat and soy. The average Cuban can afford only the food on the ration card because he makes only about $10 a month.
Antonio Jorge, a professor of economics at Florida International University, says the Cuban government maintains the tourism industry with little regard for supplying Cubans with food.
"There is no filet mignon written on the ration cards," Jorge said. "Of course not, because the money wouldn't be going to the government." He said it is clear most of the choice food stock is sold in restaurants just by the fact that it is not available on the ration card."
fidel announced new crackdowns on interaction between tourists and Cubans. It's no wonder. A tourist might slip a Cuban a hamburger.
Update - well, never let it be said I don't admit my errors. I guess I'm wrong for criticizing Governor Blanco. It seems none other than Jessee Jackson thinks she's doing the right thing in visiting fidel. It seems The Reverend Jackson was in Baton Rouge yesterday to deliver the keynote speech at the state AFL-CIO convention.
Speaking on labor in America, Jackson said, "The right to vote, the right of workers to organize, the right to health care and the right to education all go hand-in-hand."
Hmmm, Reverend. Does fidel guarantee those rights?