Tampa City Council votes to write letter to Cuba's ambassador
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09/22/11 Josh Holton
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This month Tampa International Airport resumed direct flights to Cuba. The temporary chair of City Council, Mary Mulhern was one of the first members of Tampa’s government to visit the country. The Council voted yesterday to send a letter to the Cuban ambassador expressing Tampa’s desire to interact more with the Caribbean country.

Mary Mulhern wants the Tampa Port to handle a higher percentage of US exports to Cuba, and some residents who spoke today agree. In the event that the US embargo on Cuba is fully lifted, Mulhern wants Tampa to be ready. During public comment, Don Barco asked whether the city will prepare for this possibility.

Al Arteaga is from Cuba, and said he was happy to be on the first direct Tampa flight to Cuba earlier this month

He hopes to import things like mangos to Tampa, and suggested that medicine from Cuba would be beneficial to trade with the US. Sylvia Alvarez was born in Cuba and is Arteaga’s daughter.

Alvarez also translated for Vincente Amor who has a local travel agency. He said that unless Tampa is more open with Cuba. Miami and other cities will take all of his business opportunities.

Council member Mike Suarez was the only one to oppose the letter of greetings from Tampa to Cuba because he thought the City was overstepping its boundaries.

Al Fox, the president of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation said hundreds of cities are already benefiting from a closer relationship with Cuba. Terry Watson criticized Mike Suarez for not seizing a business opportunity.

Mary Mulhern said that if Tampa doesn’t expand its dialogue with Cuba, the city will be left out in the cold when the Cold War finally ends.

Mulhern said that during session she received a text message notifying her that the Tampa Chamber of Commerce also voted today to send their Executive Director to Cuba. They intend to foster a business relationship that could further expand if the US embargo on Cuba is lifted.

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