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Tampa Chamber supports bringing Cuban Consulate to Tampa

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Bob Buckhorn may be neutral about the idea, but the business community is all in when it comes to the possibility of Tampa landing a Cuban Consulate.

Last week the Board of Directors of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce unanimously passed a motion to endorse reestablishing a secure Cuban Consulate in the Tampa/Hillsborough County area when relations between the United States and Cuba are appropriately normalized.

“The Chamber has been a supporter of re-instituting ties with Cuba, most recently through our support of increasing flights to the nation from Tampa,” said Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce in a statement. “Our Board’s action to support a Cuban Consulate located in our community is an outgrowth of many years of hard work and discussions about how best to renew our status as the U.S. gateway to Cuba.”

Tampa area U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor has been championing the possibility, ever since President Obama made his stunning announcement in mid-December of last year that he had made a diplomatic breakthrough with the communist island. Add in the fact that Miami’s mayor, Thomas Regalado, has said he wants no part of such a Consulate, has fueled the hopes of Tampa officials that they could land the facility.

“Tampa has extensive and very positive historic ties with Cuba and is well-positioned to lead business and trade with Cuba at the appropriate time. The Chamber has consistently been a leader in positioning this region to be prepared for the day when diplomatic relations with Cuba are normalized,” said Ronald Christaldi, chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who won re-election Tuesday night by getting over 96 percent of the vote, has historically sided with Cold Warrior types who don’t want anything to do with Cuba until at least the Castro brothers fade away. Speaking to reporters in January, Buckhorn said that “If that’s the choice…we will be respectful of the law, respectful of the consulate officials,” adding, “I’m going to do what the law requires me to do. I don’t think I’m going to cut a ribbon, but I’m not going to be ugly. There’s not going to be violence.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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