Al Fox talks to Tampa Tiger Bay Club about benefits of lifting Cuba trade embargo listen08/19/11 Janelle Irwin
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Many people want Florida to be allowed to trade with Cuba. They say the benefits to both Cuban and American economies would be substantial if the current trade embargo was lifted.
Tampa International Airport could begin commercial flights to and from Cuba as soon as September. That news was announced in July after at least one Miami-based charter company was granted landing rights. But trade with the country still isn’t allowed. Al Fox, president of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation, said international trade with Cuba is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
"But they're very small. They want to give Tampa Bay that business. Again historical relationship. For example they just purchased 100,000 metric tons of rice from the Chinese. The Cuban government did. It's going to take six months to a year. They don't know when the shipment is coming. It's cheap quality rice. Where the transportation costs alone is greater than if they bought that tonnage from Arkansas or Louisiana."
He also said fears regarding the Castro regime, including both Fidel and Raul, are sensationalized. He called the 50 plus year trade embargo a dangerous hypocrisy, especially when travel between countries in the Middle East is not hindered.
"Cuban's on the list of terrorist countries. Yet there is not a scintilla of evidence that Cuban has ever committed an act of terrorism against the United States or any other country for that matter."
But that trade embargo has been modified several times since its inception in 1960. Most recently, President Obama extended the embargo until September 14 of this year saying it was in the nation’s best interest. Former Gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink said she believes there are still human rights issues that keep the embargo from being lifted, but that ultimately a lift would be in Florida’s best interests.
"One thing that disturbs me is when you hear stories about the amount of trade that is occurring. Iowa, Nebraska particularly in agricultural products. Other states are taking advantage of these opportunities to trade with Cuban. I'm afraid Florida is getting left behind. So that when there is a regime change or the trade embargo is lifted that Florida won't really be fully prepared to take advantage of our location advantages."
Al Fox also spoke Friday at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club about the lack of knowledge among powerful political figures. He said many of them don’t know because they haven’t been to Cuba. Sink is among those who have not made the trip.
"Really out of respect for many friends that I have who are just adamantly and opposed and believe that there still tremendous number of human rights abuses. That's I have not decided to travel to Cuba."
Sink isn’t alone. Member of Congress Kathy Castor and Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who recently announced he will oppose her in 2012, haven’t made that trip either. Fox said he has spoken with Castor on two occasions and said she is “making baby steps”. Tiger Bay member Michael Steinberg asked Al Fox whether Sharpe and Castor would travel to Cuba.
"And he said he spoke with both of the candidates and that while Kathy Castor seemed to be making baby steps moving in that direction and Mark Sharpe tended to say that he agreed with the policy. Neither one of them were willing to go to Cuban and risk the backlash they would receive from anti-Castro group."
Tampa Tiger Bay meetings are held on the third Friday of every month. They expect Alex Sink will speak at the next meeting.