A Louisiana Senate committee approved legislation Tuesday to restore the historic connection between this state and Cuba.

The House-adopted resolution asks the state Department of Economic Development to develop trade relations with the Communist government of Cuba and analyze “current and future opportunities to establish Louisiana as the predominant trade partner with Cuba …”

House Concurrent Resolution 37 was approved without objection, but after a lot of good-natured discussion by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Republican Sen. Conrad Appel, of Metairie, said the government in Cuba is still restrictive with a bad human rights record and needs to improve. Still, “this is a rare opportunity,” he said in supporting the resolution that’s sponsored by Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero.

For 40 years during the late 1700s, Louisiana’s governor answered to the captain general in Havana and followed the same laws as Cuba. Until 1962, a few years after Fidel Castro took control of the island nation, Louisiana and Cuba had been close trading partners for centuries.

That revolution led to more than a half century of estrangement between the U.S. and Cuban governments. President Barack Obama recently lifted the embargo and has been pushing to ease the regulations that restrict open trade between the two countries.

Cuba has more than 11 million consumers who have been unable to buy U.S. goods for nearly 60 years.

In February the U.S. and Cuba agreed to restore scheduled airline services. In March Obama became the first president since Calvin Coolidge to visit the island.

State Sen. Bret Allain II, a Republican who grows sugar cane near Franklin, noted that Cuba was the state’s largest competitor in the sugar industry before that country’s revolution in 1959. But he supported the resolution.

“I like their cigars,” he said.

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