Editorial: Ports deserve state support in dealing with Cuba
Posted: 5:43 p.m. Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Port of Palm Beach officials see an opportunity in normalizing relations
with the communist island of Cuba. As well they should.
The port is in an advantageous position geographically. It has a deep
and rich history of trade with the island, pre-Fidel Castro. And most
important, the 156-acre port has room to expand and accommodate any
future growth in a relationship.
This is no pie-in-the-sky proposal. This is a well-thought-out growth
plan led by Port Executive Director Manuel Almira, who was born in Cuba.
For example, ground was broken in July 2016 on a $10.4 million mini-slip
at the port’s southernmost berth that could eventually serve as a base
for cargo service to Cuba — and boost local businesses.
This economic potential deserves the state’s support, not to be held
hostage to politics of the moment. But Gov. Rick Scott, who has made job
growth the focal point of his two terms in office, has unfortunately
lost focus when it comes to the state’s ports doing business with Cuba.
Days before a delegation of Cuban maritime leaders was to arrive for
separate meetings with officials of three Florida ports — Palm Beach,
Port Everglades and Port Tampa Bay — Scott issued a threat, via Twitter
no less, to cut funding for port operators that do business with Cuba.
That threat risks $920,000 this year for the Port of Palm Beach.
“Disappointed some FL ports would enter into any agreement with Cuban
dictatorship,” Scott wrote in a series of tweets on Jan. 25. “I will
recommend restricting state funds for ports that work with Cuba in my
budget. We cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior. Serious
security/human rights concerns.”
Though laudable, the governor’s reasoning smacks of hypocrisy. The Cuban
government indeed remains an oppressive regime under President Raul
Castro, despite the movement toward normalization of relations begun by
President Barack Obama two years ago. But more than a half century of
Cold War relations, centered on a draconian trade embargo, hasn’t done
much to bring democracy to the island’s 11 million residents either.
Moreover, Cuba is not the only oppressive communist regime the United
States — and Florida — would do business with.
China, the United States’ largest trading partner, is well known for its
iron hand and shows little sign of changing. “The outlook for
fundamental human rights, including freedoms of expression, assembly,
association and religion, remains dire,” says the nongovernmental Human
Rights Watch in its latest world report.
The government controls the media, restricts the internet, arrests
dissidents, regulates religious practice. There is only one political
party. Human rights lawyers and activists are detained, their forced
“confessions” shown on nationwide TV, and punished with stiff prison
Yet the People’s Republic of China is a land of McDonald’s, Starbucks,
KFC, Pizza Hut and Wal-Mart. General Motors and other major American
giants do big business there. It’s where iPhones and iPads are
manufactured, where the all-American Barbies and G.I. Joes are made.
Was Scott thinking of any of these contradictions when, on human rights
grounds, he slammed the ports’ plans to sign a memorandum of
understanding (MOU) with the National Port Administration of Cuba to
cover future cooperation?
“There’s no human rights down there. I don’t believe our ports should be
doing business with a brutal dictator,” Scott said last week. “We should
say to ourselves, ‘We are going to do business where they are not doing
what Raul Castro is doing.’ ”
Did Scott somehow forget that he has personally courted China during
trade missions for the state of Florida?
As Almira told The Post’s Susan Salisbury: “Private businesses based at
ports do business with Cuba, not the ports themselves. The port’s role
is to help with that.”
The state’s role is to help expand Florida trade and grow Florida jobs.
Not pick winners and losers based on politics.
Though laudable, the governor’s reasoning smacks of hypocrisy.
Source: Florida ports deserve state support in dealing with Cuba –