CUBA STANDARD — On Jan. 25, the day a Crowley Maritime liner cleared the first U.S.-bound cargo from Cuba in more than half a century at Port Everglades, Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent out three tweets, threatening to cut funding to any Florida ports that “work with Cuba”.
“Disappointed some FL ports would enter into any agreement with Cuban dictatorship,” he wrote in a first tweet, followed up by a second one that threatened, “I will recommend restricting state funds for ports that work with Cuba in my budget.” A third tweet said “We cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior. Serious security/human rights concerns.”
Scott followed up by putting an anti-Cuba provision into his proposed state budget, the Miami Herald reported. No money can be “allocated to infrastructure projects that result in the expansion of trade with the Cuban dictatorship,” the provision says, according to the Herald.
With his Trump-esque tweeting, the Republican governor tried to pre-empt the signing of memoranda of understanding by Florida ports with the Cuban ports administration, as a Cuban delegation is touring Port Everglades, the Port of Palm Beach, and Port of Tampa. The term-limited Florida governor is said to be vying for the U.S. Senate post currently held by Democrat Bill Nelson, for which he may need Cuban American hardliners’ votes.
The next day, the same day the Cuban delegation arrived, Port Everglades announced it would not sign a memorandum of understanding, as originally planned. The same day, the Port of Palm Beach issued a similar statement; both ports said that the National Port Admininstration of Cuba communicated that no agreement signing was necessary during the delegation’s visit. Officials with the Port of Tampa, the last scheduled stop of the Cuban delegation, pre-empted any trouble by saying they were not planning to sign any agreement.
The Cuban delegation, which includes executives of the national port administration, the Mariel Special Development Zone, and the Port of Mariel, previously visited Texas — including the Port of Houston — and Louisiana, where they toured the Port of New Orleans. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott visited Cuba in 2015, where the Republican witnessed the signing of various agreements. During a visit of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards to Havana in October, the Democrat witnessed the signing of four memoranda of understanding, including one by the Port of New Orleans.
“It’s very strange,” Port Everglades employee George Platt said, according to 7News Miami, asked about Scott’s tweets. “The governor’s told us for many years how much he supports expansion of our ports and our infrastructure related to ports, here in the State of Florida. It’s bizarre. We trade with China out of this port.”
On Jan. 25, Crowley’s K Storm brought the first shipment from Cuba in decades, two containers of artisanal charcoal produced by privately-owned cooperatives.