Cuba Private Business

FILE - In this June 25, 2018 file photo, tourists ride classic American convertibles in Havana, Cuba.  (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) ORG XMIT: XLAT109

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell, a Democrat, secretly slipped out of the city last week with 35 of her closest friends and headed to Cuba, ostensibly in an attempt to learn more about how communists do their thing in the small island nation.

Cantrell’s not the first Louisiana politician to travel to Cuba while in office. Her predecessors, Ray Nagin, and Mitch Landrieu, both Democrats, visited Cuba while in office as mayor. So did former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and current Gov. John Bel Edwards, also Democrats. Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain, a Republican, has also traveled to Cuba while in office.

Cantrell does seem to be the first Louisiana politician traveling to Cuba hoping to implement some of the policies adopted by the communist country. She told Miami television station WPLG, she was in Cuba to learn more about health care issues and education.

“Our maternity mortality rates are up, and so we want and we know that we can learn directly from you [Cuba] as you activated community health care on the ground,” the mayor said.

But does Cuba really have low maternity mortality rates? It’s a communist country without a free press. Leaders can say just about anything and get away with it.

Florida medical researcher Dr. Juan Felipe García recently interviewed several doctors who defected from Cuba. He discovered the communist government pressured them to lie about the ages of the children who died.

“The official Cuban infant-mortality figure is a farce. Cuban pediatricians constantly falsify figures for the regime. If an infant dies during its first year, the doctors often report he was older. Otherwise, such lapses could cost him severe penalties and even his job,” wrote Garcia.

And what would Cantrell possibly hope to learn about education from communist Cuba, where teachers are underpaid and operate in dilapidated schools? The communist nation has had slower progress with education than most Latin American countries in the past 60 years, according to a recent United Nations committee report on education and science.

The starry-eyed view Cantrell seems to have of communist Cuba requires she ignore the nation’s cruel, shameless and unapologetic suppression of free speech. Human Rights Watch reports “the Cuban government continues to punish dissent and public criticism using repressive tactics such as beatings, imprisonment, public shaming, travel restrictions and termination of employment.”

Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, describes communist Cuba as a country with “total control of public and private life by a totalitarian and corrupt state.”

“The Castro revolution in its six decades has never allowed Cuban men and women to think, choose, and decide freely. The most basic individual freedom is nonexistent on the island," said Almagro.

And according to the U.S. State Department, communist Cuba is responsible for much of the suffering currently in Venezuela.

"Cuba is the true imperialist power in Venezuela," said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"No nation has done more to sustain the death and daily misery of ordinary Venezuelans, including Venezuela's military and their families than the communists in Havana," said Pompeo.

This is the country Cantrell hopes to learn from?

The mayor says she hopes “to see firsthand how (Cuba’s) history has produced unique opportunities and challenges in the areas of economic development, trade, health care, and education and other quality of life issues.”

New Orleans attorney George Fowler was 9 years old when Fidel Castro established his brutal communist regime in Cuba. Castro’s government would end up murdering more than 4,000 political dissidents over the years. Fortunately for Fowler, his family escaped to America.

“The notion that Cantrell is going to learn something in Cuba about economics is beyond absurd. It’s totally ridiculous. There’s absolutely no reason to go to Cuba,” Fowler told WWL-TV.

If Cantrell wants to learn about Cuba, then she should travel to south Florida, where approximately 1.5 million Cuban exiles live after escaping communism. Most of the Cuban refugees are passionately anti-communist and, not surprisingly, typically vote Republican.

Cantrell would have heard a very different story from Cuban exiles in south Florida than the spin she got this past week from the communist tyrants controlling Havana.

Email Dan Fagan at Twitter: @DanFaganShow.