Tampa Breaking Free

By: Daniel Nardini

I have always liked Tampa, Florida. A good city with a lot of good people, and a place that has a lot of things one can do. It is in my view also a very livable city. Now Tampa is doing something that in my book will help the city even more. The city is opening trade links with Cuba. Yes, that’s right, Tampa is working on forging trade links with Cuba where it is legal. This is not easy given the U.S. embargo—the longest lasting of its kind in U.S. history—which allows only agricultural and medical supplies to Cuba. Believe it or not, a lot of America’s limited agricultural produce and medical supplies that go to Cuba leaves through Tampa. Tampa wants to expand this and also expand other trade links with Cuba.

Also, Tampa wants to establish more person-to-person links with Cuba to promote trade and tourism on a massive scale once the U.S. trade embargo is gone. Many in Tampa are predicting that the U.S. embargo will be gone or largely gone in the next five years (that is, if we do not elect a Republican). I hope they are right. Honestly, I am not too thrilled with the Cuban government and I certainly do not like what the Communist Party of Cuba is or what it has done. But we cannot live in a reality where we have no relations and no trade with one Communist state while we have brisk trade with every other Communist state. The U.S. embargo is a relic of the Cold War, and it should have been dispensed with a long time ago.

The city council and business people in Tampa clearly agree. Tampa has sent trade missions and investment teams to Cuba, and clearly Tampa is taking advantage of the easing of travel restrictions for Cuban Americans to be able to go to Cuba as often as they want. But clearly Tampa is counting on the day when all U.S. embargo restrictions are gone, and there will be trade with Cuba again as there was before the U.S. embargo was put into place. A long time ago, Tampa, along with its sister city Ybor City northeast of Tampa, did brisk trade with Cuba and a lot of Cuban immigrants went back and forth between that part of Florida and Cuba.

The major problem of course is that the rest of Florida, under the Republicans, and especially Miami, certainly do not welcome this move by Tampa. Fine, they do not have to welcome it at all. But it is hard for them to justify no contact and no relations with Cuba on everything when this has never changed the Cuban government and is not likely to in the near future. At least one place in Florida is looking at reality, and that is a good sign.

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