Port cancels signing of pact with Cuba after Gov. Scott threatens to cut
BY AMY SHERMAN, MIMI WHITEFIELD AND PATRICIA MAZZEI
After Gov. Rick Scott threatened to financially cut off Florida ports
that do business with Cuba, Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale canceled
its plans to sign an agreement with Cuba.
Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca told the Miami Herald on
Thursday morning, minutes after speaking with port director Steve
Cernak, that Cernak told him the memorandum of understanding with Cuba
won't be signed. However, LaMarca said that port officials will still
hold their scheduled meeting with the Cuba delegation at the port in
Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.
"The port director was a little upset way things transpired,
nevertheless he understood the governor's position," LaMarca said.
"With respect to the MOU it was canceled yesterday afternoon once the
governor's position was made. They are going to still have meeting."
Port Everglades sent a brief email to reporters Thursday morning:
"The National Port Administration of Cuba has indicated to Port
Everglades administration that there is no need for a memorandum of
understanding at this time. However, today's business meeting and
related activities will continue as planned."
Port leaders could not be reached for comment.
Scott revealed Wednesday on Twitter that he would ask state lawmakers to
restrict funding for ports that "enter into any agreement with [the]
Cuban dictatorship." Port Everglades planned to do so Thursday, and the
Port of Palm Beach on Friday.
"I will recommend restricting state funds for ports that work with Cuba
in my budget," Scott tweeted.
The Port of Palm Beach, which is in Riviera Beach, did not immediately
react to Port Everglades' decision.
Scott's funding threat came a day after the first legal cargo from Cuba
in more than 50 years arrived in Port Everglades. The containers
contained hardwood charcoal made by private work cooperatives, which are
allowed only rules issued by former President Barack Obama in his quest
to normalize relations with Cuba.
Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry underscored to the Herald in
an email that the meeting with the Cuban delegation was still scheduled
Thursday. The seven-member delegation planned an all-day visit.
"Members of Administration (Port Staff, in particular) will be joining
members of the business community at the meeting today with the Cuban
delegation in support of our major cargo tenant, notwithstanding the
Governor's tweet," Henry wrote.
The delegation has already paid visits to ports in Houston and New
Orleans, and plans on dropping in on the Port of Palm Beach, Port Tampa
Bay and the Port of Virginia in Norfolk before returning to Cuba in
The port's deal with the National Port Administration of Cuba was in the
works since early 2016 and ready to sign since May.
Trade with Cuba is hardly new for Florida ports. Under exceptions to the
embargo that allow food and other humanitarian exports to Cuba, the
United States has exported more than 4,806,368 metric tons of products
to the island since 2010.
Of that amount, more than 737,155 metric tons have been transported from
ports located in the State of Florida, according to John Kavulich,
president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. This represents
more than 15 percent of the total transported since 2010.
LaMarca said that Crowley Maritime Corporation, the Port Everglades
tenant that brought in the cargo of artisanal Cuban charcoal this week,
has shipped goods under a humanitarian agreement with the federal
government since 2001. That arrangement will continue.
The port has MOUs with five other ports around the world.
Source: Port Everglades cancels plan to sign agreement with Cuba | Miami