Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gov. Scott doesn't want Florida's ports making deals with Cuba

Gov. Scott doesn't want Florida's ports making deals with Cuba
JANUARY 25, 2017 3:43 PM

Florida Gov. Rick Scott threatened Wednesday to strip state funds from
two South Florida seaports ready to sign business deals with the Cuban

Over three posts on Twitter, the governor said he would ask state
lawmakers to restrict dollars for ports that "enter into any agreement
with [the] Cuban dictatorship" — as Port Everglades and the Port of Palm
Beach plan to do Thursday and Friday, respectively.

"We cannot condone Raul Castro's oppressive behavior," Scott tweeted in
English and Spanish, using the preferred social media platform of his
friend, President Donald Trump. "Serious security/human rights concerns."

Scott's position came a day after the first legal cargo from Cuba in
more than half a century — artisanal charcoal — arrived Tuesday in Fort
Lauderdale's Port Everglades. The Port of Palm Beach is located in
Riviera Beach.

Jackie Schutz, a Scott spokeswoman, said the governor takes issue with
the ports inking memorandums of understanding with the Cuban government
because he "firmly" believes the U.S. should not do business with Cuba
"until there is freedom and democracy."

"What I don't believe is in our ports doing business with a ruthless
dictator," Scott told reporters in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday.

The governor will make his request to the Legislature, which ultimately
sets the state budget and can ignore Scott if it wishes. The Florida
Department of Transportation's budget shows more than $37 million
budgeted for Port Everglades projects over the next five years —
including $23 million for a dredging the port has sought for three
decades — and $920,000 for the Port of Palm Beach.

Manuel Almira, the Port of Palm Beach's executive director, told the
Miami Herald in an email Wednesday that the port has reached out to
Scott's office following his tweets.

"The Governor's position was surprising, to say the least," Almira said.

Port Everglades did not respond to requests for comment — not even to
discuss the Cuban delegation's schedule Thursday.

Jim Pyburn, Port Everglades' director of business development, told the
Miami Herald on Tuesday, before Scott revealed his position, that the
port's deal with the National Port Administration of Cuba — in the works
since early 2016 and ready to sign since May — could lead to joint
marketing studies and training.

"We would like to see U.S. exports to Cuba increase," he said. "Imports
are good, too."

A Cuban delegation plans to visit a number of ports over the coming
week, including Port Tampa Bay, which does not have an imminent deal
with the country in the works.

"Our port has taken a very cautious approach to Cuba," said Ed
Miyagishima, Port Tampa Bay's vice president for communications and
external affairs, who once worked for Scott. "The port itself is
Cuba-ready, in the sense that we're ready to work with all the entities
once the embargo is lifted, but we're taking a very conservative
approach. We are not signing an MOU with the Cuban government, just
because there's so much ambiguity in Cuba policy right now."

The delegation has no plans to drop in on PortMiami.

"We were never approached by any Cuban port delegation — never got a
phone call, nothing at all," said Andria Muñiz-Amador, a port spokeswoman.

Last May, Carnival Corp.'s Fathom Line launched an every-other-week
cruise from PortMiami to Cuba that circumnavigates the island. The
cruise is being discontinued this spring, but Carnival hopes to add
Cuban ports of call on its other Caribbean cruises.

Executive orders issued by former President Barack Obama over the past
two years eased some Cuba-related trade restrictions, making shipping
agreements possible. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked
Tuesday if Trump planned quick Cuba action of his own, perhaps to
reverse some of Obama's work, as Trump said he would do absent a more
favorable arrangement for the U.S.

"We've got nothing that we're ready to announce," Spicer said.


Source: Florida Gov. Rick Scott: Cut funds for ports that ink Cuba deals
| Miami Herald -

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