Political prisoners in Cuba

Miami readies a fight over Cuban consulate

Miami readies a fight over Cuban consulate

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado vows court fight if Washington tries to put
diplomatic outpost in Miami
County commissioner wants Miami-Dade to urge Washington to block a
consulate from coming
One prominent healthcare leader urges an end to traditional exile
politics: “This is business.”
BY DOUGLAS HANKS
dhanks@miamiherald.com

As Havana and Washington expand their diplomatic embrace, some Miami
leaders have a stern message to both parties: Leave us out of it.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said Monday he would sue to block Cuba should
the country ever try to open a consulate within city limits. A county
resolution set for a vote later this week would urge President Barack
Obama not to allow a Cuban consulate in Miami-Dade, saying the satellite
embassy “could inflame passions and create security risks.”

Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, the son of a Bay of Pigs
veteran who sponsored the county resolution, called a potential Cuban
consulate “a travesty” to the exile community under the current
dictatorship.

“The moment there’s a free Cuba, the moment there are elections in Cuba,
the moment that beatings stop happening in Cuba, then I think there will
be a very bright opportunity [for Miami-Dade] to take its right
leadership role in Cuba,” Bovo said. “All we need is to be a little
patient.”

At issue is what many see as a natural next step after Cuba re-opened
its Washington embassy last July as part of the two countries’ pursuit
of normal diplomatic relations. Foreign countries tend to pick cities
with large immigrant populations when setting up consulates outside of
Washington, since expatriates have the most need for processing visas,
obtaining birth certificates from back home, and other paperwork issues
that otherwise might require a trip to the actual embassy.

“Miami is logically the place for a consulate, and it will probably not
be the place for a consulate,” said Mike Fernandez, a Cuban-born
healthcare magnate in Coral Gables who is a top Republican donor. He
supports ties to Cuba and traveled to Havana last fall as part of the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s outreach programs. “If I was mayor of Miami,
I would say I represent everyone in Miami, and I represent the future of
Miami. And this is business.”

“It’s absolutely time to forgive,” added Fernandez, chairman of MBF
Healthcare Partners. “It’s way overdue.”

Tampa, with one of the largest Cuban populations in the United States,
already is campaigning to receive Cuba’s first consulate, with area
leaders passing resolutions welcoming the diplomatic outpost. But in
Miami, home to the largest Cuban population outside of the island
itself, leaders are publicly recoiling at the idea of Cuba claiming any
local real estate.

“I’m going to go to federal court if the State Department grants a
license to Cuba to establish a consulate here,” said Regalado, who was
born in Cuba and whose father was a political prisoner under Fidel
Castro for two decades.

Regalado described a potential Cuba consulate as an “unfunded mandate,”
because Miami police would constantly need to react to the protests and
security risks tied to it. He said Miami faced a similar situation
during the leadership of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, when the that
nation’s consulate was a frequent source of tension in the city.
Venezuela closed its Miami consulate in 2012, leaving Miami’s heavy
Venezuelan population to travel to the New Orleans consulate for
paperwork and visa needs.

“Every time the Cuban government does something” controversial, Regalado
said, “we’re going to have protests…. It affects our peace and stability.”

PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS MORE IN COMMON WITH THE CASTRO BROTHERS THAN HE DOES
WITH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban ‘Steve’ Bovo

The contretemps over a hypothetical Miami Cuban consulate is largely
seen as a symbolic fight, because Washington decides where a foreign
power may open diplomatic outposts around the country. It’s the latest
example of Miami’s political leadership resisting a rapid expansion of
governmental and business ties between the United States and Cuba
following Obama’s announcement in December 2014 that he was pursuing
full diplomatic relations with the Castro regime.

“President Obama has more in common with the Castro brothers than he
does with the American people,” Bovo said. “The president probably had a
Che Guevara poster affixed to his wall in college. He has much more in
common with the Castros on broad issues.”

Bovo cited a Bendixen & Amandi poll from 2014 that found national
support among Cuban-Americans for a Miami consulate (50 percent favored
it while 39 percent opposed) but that the issue became much narrower in
Florida. The poll found 41 percent of Cuban Americans in Florida wanted
a consulate in Miami, compared to 46 percent opposed.

Already, commercial ties between Miami and Cuba are expanding at a rapid
pace, with Washington clearing away regulatory hurdles even as a formal
embargo remains in place.

American Airlines hopes to lead the way with a new schedule of regularly
scheduled flights between Miami and Havana, ending the need for the
chartered flights that currently handle the increasingly popular route.
Carnival, the world’s largest cruise company, plans to use PortMiami as
a launching pad for Cuba-bound itineraries later this year.

IF I WAS MAYOR OF MIAMI, I WOULD SAY I REPRESENT EVERYONE IN MIAMI, AND
I REPRESENT THE FUTURE OF MIAMI. AND THIS IS BUSINESS.
MBF Healthcare Partners Chairman Mike Fernandez

But when news filtered out earlier this month that PortMiami was in
talks with ferry operators about potential routes to Cuba, Miami-Dade
Mayor Carlos Gimenez called a press conference to emphasize the county
does “business with carriers” and not “with countries.”

A Gimenez spokesman said the mayor would “work with” Washington if it
ever chose to put a Cuban consulate in Miami.

“Mayor Gimenez believes it is premature to discuss the opening of a
Cuban consulate in Miami-Dade County when several other issues between
the United States and Cuba need to be resolved,” spokesman Michael
Hernández wrote in a statement. “However, it is a federal decision
whether to permit a consulate in our community, and Mayor Gimenez’s
administration will work with the federal government should that
decision be made.”

Source: Miami readies a fight over Cuban consulate | Miami Herald –
www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article55309110.html

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