Sunday, November 19, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: U.S. should engage, not isolate, Cuba

RECOMMENDED READING


A Cuba without a Castro is now on the horizon, and the United States and Florida should be prepared for the opportunity. Cuban President Raul Castro announced Sunday he will retire in five years, and when he leaves in 2018 it appears that for the first time since 1959 a Castro brother will not be running the country. The rhetoric from Havana aside, this is another significant step toward meaningful change that Florida should be prepared capitalize on by strengthening ties to the island.

Castro's retirement announcement is not entirely surprising given his advanced age of 81. What is more intriguing is his call for term limits and age limits on political officeholders, including his successor, and his positioning of a front-runner to take his place. Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, 52, is from a younger generation than the Castro brothers, one that did not fight in the revolution that brought Fidel Castro and the communists to power. Just as the younger generation of Cuban exiles in South Florida has different views about the relationship between the United States and Cuba, so too may younger Cubans on the island.

This is the time to reconsider the out-of-date hard line from an older generation and end the failed Cuba embargo. The idea should be more communication now with Cubans, not less, even as the United States continues to call for free speech and better human rights. Raul Castro has made a number of economic reforms since he took over in 2006, and that direction should be encouraged in the coming years.

For example, the relaxed travel rules implemented last month by the Cuban government will let Cubans who can afford it to travel freely and return to their country. This is good news for the Cuban people who have lived as virtual prisoners on the island nation. It means, ironically, that Cubans now enjoy greater freedom to come to the United States than our government gives Americans to travel to Cuba. Cuba is changing in some positive ways. American policy should respond in kind.

To leave Cuba temporarily or permanently, the Cuban people will no longer be required to have a letter of invitation from another nation or go through a bureaucratic process to obtain an exit visa that had cost nearly $400 and could result in denial. Now they can vote with their feet, particularly if they have friends or relatives willing to underwrite the move.

This could lead to a surge in Cuban migration to the United States. Yet the United States doesn't intend to increase the number of immigrant visas provided for Cubans, which amount to about 20,000 annually.

One opportunity for change is to meet Cuba's concession with a similar step. President Barack Obama could eliminate the remaining travel restrictions imposed on Americans traveling to Cuba. In 2011, Obama loosened the rules, allowing American students and religious and cultural groups to visit Cuba, leading to hundreds of thousands of trips there by Americans from airports such as Tampa International.

Change is coming to Cuba, and this is the time for American engagement instead of isolation.

Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17