Sunday, January 21, 2018
Editorials

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

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This is the time to reconsider the out-of-date hard line from an older generation and end the failed Cuba embargo.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: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18