New Orleans mayor talks natural disasters in Cuba

Published 12:33 am Sunday, October 18, 2009

The mayor of New Orleans arrived in Cuba on Friday to study the communist government’s disaster response system.

A Cuban official says Mayor Ray Nagin plans to be on the island six days, though details were not available. Nagin’s office confirmed the visit, which began a day after President Barack Obama was in New Orleans.

Nagin’s city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and many deaths there were blamed on people deciding to ride out the storm. Cuba uses mandatory evacuations to limit casualties from hurricanes, with authorities going door to door to ensure all comply.

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Trips by U.S. mayors to Cuba are not uncommon. Politicians can obtain Treasury Department permission to visit.

In the 1950s, Cuba was a top source of trade through the port of New Orleans, but the statement from Nagin’s office did not mention trade.