Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: U.S. should keep ties to evolving Cuba

The Cuban government's announcement Tuesday that it would temporarily suspend new permits for private businesses isn't cause for alarm, at least just yet. A government mouthpiece, the Communist Party newspaper Granma, said Cuba needed time to put its "house in order" and was not abandoning an ongoing move to integrate some private-sector economic activity into the island's communist society. Still, the announcement shows the critical role the United States should play during this transition period. There should be no going back in building stronger political, social and economic ties.

The government said it would suspend the issuance of permits for a range of business ventures and occupations, clamping down on private restaurants, the rental of rooms in family homes and a growing number of services from tutoring and dressmaking to real estate brokers. President Raul Castro opened up the economy in 2010 to some limited private-sector ventures, and now nearly a half-million Cubans in a nation of 11 million take advantage of these side businesses to bring in outside income.

The government said it is not reversing course, but rather — as the newspaper said — getting its "house in order" after a radical realignment in Cuba's economy, one of the most closed in the world for the past half-century. This shouldn't be surprising, given the challenge of bringing some order to two largely parallel monetary operations. The spike in tourism has led many visitors to realize that private restaurants and homes are often nicer and more culturally enriching than the experience in government-run hotels and eateries.

But this also is as much about the legacy of Cuba's isolation as a reflection on a modern success story. The jump in entrepreneurial activity has outpaced the Cuban government's ability to manage it, leading to concerns over tax evasion and misappropriation of government property. Cuba needs the income from public ventures to pay for its vast social welfare obligations. With the tide of tourism expected to increase steadily in the years ahead, the Cuban government realizes it needs to develop the capacity to realize this new potential while seeing to its traditional safety net expectations. Managing these uncharted waters is difficult enough, but it comes as officials who either fear or favor them are maneuvering in preparation for Castro's retirement at the end of next year.

Cuba's pullback also comes as the Trump administration begins to administer tighter rules on traveling to Cuba that it unveiled in June. The new rules add red tape and cost for travelers to Cuba, requiring that those on "people-to-people" exchanges use tour groups rather than arrange their own travel. Travelers will also face more routine U.S. government audits, a harassment intended to dampen the Cuba travel market.

It's impractical to imagine that either side can reverse the public clamor for closer relations. But this still is a new relationship, and Americans need to continue voting with their feet to keep the two governments on track. The United States needs to see the ties as an opportunity to influence the post-Castro age, while the Cuban government needs to see them as a durable tool for sustaining the next generation.

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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: 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...
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
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18