Florida's Champions

Miami Herald: Meet the new rick scott, Cuba Guru (Not!)

Term-limited Florida Gov. Rick Scott has found a new hobby horse: Cuba. First, there was the post-presidential election, post-Fidel death letter to Raúl Castro in December asking the Cuban leader to “allow a new era of freedom and opportunity for Cuba” or continue “down a path of poverty.” Pointless. As if no one had spent the last 58 years saying the same thing — even less persuasive if you read it with Scott’s voice in your head. Naïveté was the letter’s most notable trait.

Mypalmbeachpost: Ports Deserve state support in dealing with cuba

Port of Palm Beach officials see an opportunity in normalizing relations with the communist island of Cuba. As well they should. The port is in an advantageous position geographically. It has a deep and rich history of trade with the island, pre-Fidel Castro. And most important, the 156-acre port has room to expand and accommodate any future growth in a relationship. This is no pie-in-the-sky proposal. This is a well-thought-out growth plan led by Port Executive Director Manuel Almira, who was born in Cuba. For example, ground was broken in July 2016 on a $10.4 million mini-slip at the port’s southernmost berth that could eventually serve as a base for cargo service to Cuba — and boost local businesses. This economic potential deserves the state’s support, not to be held hostage to politics of the moment.

Miami herald: Frozen chicken, Chocolate bars: it might surprise you what florida ports send to cuba

Humanitarian shipments, frozen chicken parts, chocolate bars, empty beer kegs from the U.S. Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, medicine, even a traveling Bible exhibit. These items and more have flowed through the state’s ports and airports headed to or returning from Cuba even though Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t think any Florida port should be doing business with the “Cuban dictatorship.” The governor’s statements recently scuttled plans by two Florida ports to sign a cooperation agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding (MOU), with the Cuban port administration, and Scott also put wording in his 2017 budget recommendation that would withhold funding for port improvements from ports that expand trade with Cuba.

LA Times: Obama's Cuba decision follows change in attitudes in Florida

For decades, the U.S. embargo on Cuba has been as much about domestic as foreign policy. In the end, a generational shift in the politics of one key state opened the way for the Obama administration to change half a century of efforts to isolate the island. Several past administrations debated changes in U.S. Cuba policy, but each time, the fear of angering powerful anti-Castro immigrants and losing a presidential election in Florida blocked the idea. The Clinton administration’s outreach toward Cuba has been blamed by some Democrats for costing Al Gore the votes he needed to win Florida, and the presidency, in the agonizingly close 2000 election. But the political landscape has shifted. 

Sun Sentinel: US Airlines Propose Cuba Flights from South Florida

Three airlines are proposing daily flights from Fort Lauderdale to Cuba, and one wants to add West Palm Beach as well. Three more want to serve Cuba with daily flights from Miami. The plans are outlined in applications filed Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The U.S. and Cuba struck a deal in February to allow commercial flights to Cuba for the first time in five decades. 

South Florida Business Journal: What the Latest Rules on Cuba Mean for South Florida

U.S. officials have peeled back more restrictions to Cuba, giving Florida’s huge Cuban-American population more options to visit the island country. New rules announced Tuesday say that U.S. travelers can go to Cuba for “people-to-people educational travel” rather than being required to go in tour groups. However, Americans who want to go to Cuba must still be authorized under 12 sanctioned reasons for travel, which does not include tourism. The new rules also allow Cubans living in the U.S. to open bank accounts and receive salaries in America. 


Subsistence fishermen at the Cojimar port outside of Havana, Cuba, say they have seen a serious decline in marine populations. They blame overfishing by foreign ships, pollution and warming waters, and call on the United States and Cuba to ramp up their collaboration restore balance in the 90 miles of sea separating the former adversaries.


The Florida Aquarium made history in August when it partnered with the National Aquarium in Havana on coral reef research — the first-ever collaboration between marine centers from two countries that had quarreled for five decades. This new relationship has helped land the aquarium a seat at the table in Havana this week as government leaders from the United States and Cuba hammer out how they will cooperate on environmental protection. The talks arise from a new era of normalization between the nations and center on their shared interests, including the health of the Gulf of Mexico. "The Florida Aquarium is excited to participate in this groundbreaking binational marine conservation initiative," said Margo McKnight, vice president of biological operations, who will attend the Havana meetings. "Opportunities afforded to both the U.S. and Cuba by working together on these critical marine issues cannot be overstated in their importance."


A small Florida bank will issue the first U.S. credit card intended for use in Cuba and make it easier for Americans to travel and work on an island largely cut off from the U.S. financial system, the bank announced Tuesday. Pompano Beach-based Stonegate Bank said its Mastercard, available Wednesday, will let U.S. travelers charge purchases at state-run businesses and a handful of private ones, mostly high-end private restaurants equipped with point-of-sale devices. Until now, Americans have generally had to bring cash to Cuba and change it either at state institutions that impose a 10 percent penalty on the dollar or in informal exchanges with locals. "This is going to be huge for American companies trying to do business down here," Stonegate president David Seleski said.


The commercial flights that begin this fall between the United States and Cuba mark the continuing turnaround in relations with an important southern neighbor. This latest step is another boon to Cuban-American families and to regional security, and it brings welcome new opportunities for Florida and Tampa Bay. The U.S. Department of Transportation this month approved flights by six American commercial airlines to nine Cuban cities. While charter flights from Tampa and other U.S. cities have served Cuba's capital, Havana, for years, this marks the biggest expansion in the travel market between two countries that had largely been separated by Cold War animosity for a half-century.

Fox news latino: Cuban environmental delegation visits Florida coral reefs, sees U.S. effort at restoration

As Cuba prepares for a spike in tourism, a group of the island nation’s scientists and government officials got a firsthand look at how the United States has been able to restore its sensitive underwater ecosystem. The Cuban delegation, all of whom are guests of federal scientists and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, started the day on Monday with a briefing at the sanctuary. “The sanctuary is 9,800 square kilometers in size,” said Billy Causey, the sanctuary’s director. The group then headed to Looe Key, a large protected reef off Big Pine Key. Once there, they got a close-up look at how tourism can have a negative impact on coral and fish populations. “That gives them a good understanding of what we’re dealing with, and they can see it,” said Causey. The delegation is very interested in learning how overfishing and too many boats can damage coral and the creatures that call it home. 



St. Augustine Record: Cuban port official invites gov. scott to visit island nation

Following Gov. Rick Scott’s threat to cut state money for any port that signs an agreement with Cuba, a top Cuban port official meeting at the Port of Palm Beach Friday invited the governor to visit Cuba.“Nobody can speak about something they don’t know. Seeing is believing. I would invite Gov. Scott to come visit our country. Come see our reality. See how we feel about it so that he can form his own view,” said Ana Teresa Igarza, general director of the special development zone at Port Mariel.

Panama City News Herald: A lonely port in a twitter storm

As The News Service of Florida reported Wednesday, Scott took to Twitter to trade-shame Port Everglades, just after the Atlantic seaport welcomed a cargo ship containing charcoal from Cuba. It was Cuba's first commercial export to the U.S. in more than a half-century, and executed under the softening of the decades-old economic embargo, as directed by President Barack Obama. Port Everglades officials promptly scuttled plans to ink a deal for the future delivery of other Cuban goods. Port masters in Palm Beach did likewise. Trade will be a tricky subject in the Trump era. Old partnerships will founder, as new ones emerge. Cuba should be among the latter. And Florida's ports should be able to reap dividends. 


Sun Sentinel: Gov. Rick Scott's tweets hurt florida's ports

What a disappointing trump card Gov. Rick Scott played this week when he took a page from President Donald Trump's playbook and unleashed a series of tweets threatening to defund any Florida seaport that develops any kind of relationship with Cuba. "Disappointed some FL ports would enter into any agreement with Cuban dictatorship," the governor tweeted Wednesday. "I will recommend restricting state funds for ports that work with Cuba in my budget." "Do we want multiple Florida ports to be the gateway to Asia through the Panama Canal, or give it to New Orleans, Savannah or Galveston?" Carlson asks. "This is the biggest economic development opportunity of our lifetimes. Why would we pass it up because any politician wants to get a few extra votes in Miami. It doesn't make sense."

THE New york times: Why the Cuba Issue No Longer Cuts Against Democrats in Florida

The importance of small demographic groups is often overstated by political commentators. The Cuban-American vote is an exception. Cuban-Americans represent a meaningful number of voters in a battleground state, Florida, that may be critical in the 2016 presidential election. Their political allegiances also seem to have shifted significantly toward Democrats in recent years, which raises the possibility that President Obama’s new policy could accelerate the shift — or undo parts of it. Cuban-Americans, in short, are the rare small demographic group that could easily decide a presidential election.


Port Tampa Bay is known as a port of origin for cruise ships and is interested in attracting business from the nascent Cuba cruise and ferry market. Port Tampa Bay has high hopes that it can win a portion of the planned traffic, just as it has won its share of the Caribbean cruise line departures. “There’s no doubt Miami is No. 1, they have a critical mass of cruise lines there,” said Edward Miyagishima, vice president of communications and external affairs at Port Tampa Bay, speaking to the Orlando Sentinel. “But there are a lot of benefits to Tampa. We’re only 300 nautical miles away from Cuba. It’s a straight shot." 


The mayor of DeBary, Fla., is preparing to travel from Cuba to Key West on a homemade raft next month. Mayor Clint Johnson says he plans to fly to Cuba with his wife and build a raft out of basic supplies before rowing back to the United States by himself. He says he wants to see for himself what Cuban refugees experience when making the 90-mile trek. 


Cuba’s international landing fee in Havana’s José Martí International Airport is $4.89 per metric ton of aircraft. Charter flights typically use a 162-seat Boeing 737-800 with a maximum take-off weight of 79 metric tons — for a landing fee of about $390. But the same sold-out aircraft could cost nearly $24,000 in landing fees at José Martí if operated by a U.S. charter flight company. In February, the U.S. and Cuban governments signed a non-binding aviation arrangement that allows U.S.-based commercial flights to land and sets certain guidelines — including one prohibiting discriminatory fees. 


Tickets have gone on sale at American Airlines for flights to five Cuban cities beginning this fall. The air carrier, which has a major hub at Miami International Airport, expects to begin service from Miami to both Cienfuegos and Holguin on on Wednesday, September 7th. The first flight will depart from Miami to Cienfuegos at 10 a.m, pending the approval of Cuba’s government. Flights from Miami to Camaguey and Santa Clara will begin on September 9th with flights to Varadero beginning September 11th. Tickets are on sale on and can also be purchased through the airlines reservations department. Miami and Ft. Lauderdale were two of five cities selected to have scheduled flights to Cuba beginning as early as this fall.


U.S. Department of Transportation leaders announced Friday six domestic airlines approved for service as part of the historic agreement between the U.S. and Cuban leaders. "Last year, President Obama announced that it was time to 'begin a new journey' with the Cuban people," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Today, we are delivering on his promise by re-launching scheduled air service to Cuba after more than half a century." Carriers awarded service are American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines, said the U.S. DOT.








Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL-14) Co-Sponsors H.R. 351 Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act and H.R. 525 Cuba Agricultural Exports Act

Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL-14)

Co-Sponsors H.R. 351 Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act and H.R. 525 Cuba Agricultural Exports Act

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) Cosponsor of S 1287 Freedom for Americans to Travel to Cuba Act

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Cosponsor of S 1287 Freedom for Americans to Travel to Cuba Act