Kathy Castor: Cuban consulate? Bet on Tampa
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, has a message for anyone concerned that St. Petersburg and not Tampa may land the first Cuban consulate in the U.S. in more than five decades:
“The consulate will serve primarily Cubans,” Castor said. “It is more likely that it will be in Tampa, where the Cuban population lives.”
A belief that St. Petersburg has taken the lead over Tampa in the competition for the consulate gained momentum last weekend.
That’s when the Cuban consular general from its embassy in Washington D.C. took a tour of St. Petersburg’s real estate assets with the city’s director of planning and economic development.
That followed St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s trip to Cuba last year that included a meeting with the deputy director for American affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the agency that will decide which U.S. city gets the first Cuban Consulate.
Still, said Castor, do not worry.
She said that when then the Cuban ambassador came to Tampa in 2014, she promoted Ybor City as a future spot for a consulate even though diplomatic relations had not yet been restored.
Following that trip, Castor said, Ybor City developers Joe Capitano and Alan Kahana put together a real estate proposal that she forwarded to the ambassador.
In the past year, Castor said, she met with Cuba’s foreign minister and deputy foreign minister on separate occasions. Both were reminded to look to Tampa for a consulate spot, Castor said.
And the Cuban government is well aware that Tampa and their nation have a history that dates back more than a century to the founding of Ybor City and its cigar industry, Castor said.
As for whether Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s non-involvement about hosting a Cuban consulate could hurt Tampa’s chances, again, Castor says not to worry.
“They have the congresswoman from Tampa who is the lead sponsor of a bill to lift the embargo,” said Castor, speaking of herself. “They have the congresswoman from Tampa who reinstated the bipartisan Cuban working group meant to advance U.S.-Cuban relations.”
Castor predicts a destination will not be chosen anytime soon. Cuba has other issues to tackle before opening a consulate in the U.S.
“Obviously Miami makes the most sense,” Castor said. “That is where the largest Cuban population lives but there are politics there we don’t have in Tampa.”