Tampa City Council discusses Cuba

07/23/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern has just returned from a 5 day trip to Cuba. But she appeared less than enthusiastic today when a colleague said the Council should take time out to discuss promoting international trade with the communist island.

The proposal came from Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena, who asked that a special discussion take place on the issue next month.

Mulhern said the timing appeared premature.

Although the economic embargo against Cuba continues, President Obama recently relaxed laws implemented by George W. Bush regarding remittances and travel amongst Cuban Americans back to their native country.

Congress has also loosened restrictions on sending agricultural items. Representative Kathy Castor has requested that Tampa be allowed to have direct charter flights to Cuba, to let Cuban Americans more easily visit the island.

In the past couple of months, there have been two forums on improving Tampa’s business relationship with Cuba. At both meetings, Council members Mulhern, Saul-Sena and Thomas Scott attended, and Saul-Sena and Scott have both said they intend to also visit the island soon.

But after Mulhern said she would be okay if the other council members wanted to take time to discuss those trips, Saul-Sena cut her off.

And Saul-Sena said it was the city’s fiduciary responsibilities to investigate possible trade with Cuba.

Mulhern agreed, and said it was incumbent upon members of Council and other citizens to lobby Congresswoman Castor, as well as members of the Senate and President Obama on encouraging better relations with Cuba. But she emphasized that the Council’s ability themselves to effect change was largely symbolic.

The Council could not agree upon a date to meet about discussing Cuba. Councilwoman Saul-Sena said she will check with the City Clerk and recommend a date at the Council’s next meeting.

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