Gov. Scott puts provision in proposed budget to block trade with Cuba
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
Following on the heels of last’s week threatened retaliation against
Florida ports that sign agreements with Cuba, Gov. Rick Scott has tucked
another anti-Cuba provision into his proposed state budget that is even
Port Everglades and the Port of Palm Beach backed off plans to sign
what’s known as a memorandum of understanding with the National Port
Administration of Cuba last week after Scott tweeted that he would ask
state legislators to cut off funding for any Florida ports that “enter
into any agreement with [the] Cuban dictatorship.”
In a Twitter post, the governor said he had “Serious security/human
rights concerns” about Cuba.
The two ports received visits from a high-level maritime and business
delegation from Cuba last week, but both port directors put plans to
sign any MOU with Cuba on hold.
However, that didn’t prevent Scott from putting wording in his new
budget, released Tuesday, that says no money can be “allocated to
infrastructure projects that result in the expansion of trade with the
Cuban dictatorship because of their continued human rights abuses.” The
reference can be found on page 221 of Scott’s 362-page 2017-2018 budget
It’s up to Florida legislators if they want to include the governor’s
recommendations in the budget they will craft during the legislative
session, which begins in March.
At stake is $176.56 million for port improvements that Scott has
stipulated shouldn’t be funded if they lead to expanded trade with Cuba.
It’s unclear if the budget reference also includes trade in services and
would impact Florida ports that have cruise service to Cuba or
potentially ferry service to the island. Several ferry ventures have
proposals before the Cuban government to offer ferry service from
Florida to Cuba.
Carnival’s Fathom Line currently offers cruises from PortMiami to Cuba
and Pearl Seas Cruises has scheduled 11 Cuba cruises through April from
Port Everglades. Royal Caribbean International plans to offer a sailing
to Cuba from PortMiami on April 19 aboard the Empress of the Seas and
then switch the ship to Tampa where it will offer two more cruises to
Cuba in April and May.
The proposed state budget was released the same day as a shipment of
Cuban charcoal arrived at the Hialeah warehouse of Fogo Charcoal. Two
containers of the hardwood charcoal, which is made by private worker
cooperatives in Cuba, arrived at Port Everglades aboard a Crowley
Maritime ship last Tuesday. It was the first legal maritime shipment
from Cuba to the U.S. in more than 50 years.
Port Everglades Director Steven Cernak said last week that the port
leases space to its tenants and does not get involved in decisions about
their trading partners or how they operate. Crowley is Port Everglades’
Potentially, Port Everglades could lose as much as $125 million in state
funding over the next five years if the state imposes the governor’s
“The bottom line is that [trade with Cuba] is really
private-sector-driven. Crowley has been doing business here with Cuba
for the past 15 years,” said Ellen Kennedy, a Port Everglades spokeswoman.
“It’s a question for the ports in this case,” said a Crowley spokesman.
“The infrastructure projects planned at the port are mostly to better
handle the big ships that are coming from South America and Europe,”
Kennedy said. “The expansion is not specific to trade with Cuba.”
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Source: Gov. Scott uses budget to try to stop expansion of trade with
Cuba | Miami Herald –