Companies looking to expand their trade with Cuba through Port Everglades is receiving harsh pushback from Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott reportedly threatened to pull funding from Port Everglades, Thursday, which caused the port to change its mind on trade with Cuba. This news comes one day after the first export from Cuba arrived to Port Everglades.
The cargo shipment that arrived had two containers full of legal, artisanal charcoal, which is commonly used to cook pizza and in bread ovens.
The charcoal was reportedly produced in farms just outside of Havana, Cuba.
Before Scott’s threats, Port Everglades officials were planning a business agreement with Cuba that would allow for goods to be accepted and sent through the port.
Upon hearing of the possible agreement, Scott said that Port Everglades and any other port that trades with Cuba will lose funding. “I know some of our courts are going to be meeting with individuals from Cuba,” said the Florida governor. “Some of them are going to sign MOUs, which I think is not good for this state. They’re doing business with somebody who’s absolutely ruthless against women and others. He arrested 10,000 people last year.”
Seven members from Cuba’s Port Administration are at Port Everglades and were expected to sign the memorandum of understanding. Instead, Port Everglades officials met at 2 p.m. to decline any further talks.
“It’s important to me that we understand that Cuba is run by a ruthless dictator,” Scott said. “Raul Castro is attacking people. He’s beating up the Ladies in White — there’s no democracy.”
A deal between Port Everglades and Cuba has been in the works since 2016. Scott sent several tweets saying: “Disappointed some FL ports would enter into any agreement with Cuban dictatorship. (1/3),” “I will recommend restricting state funds for ports that work with Cuba in my budget. (2/3)” and “We cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior. Serious security/human rights concerns. (3/3).”
“I saw the tweets, and that’s how I found out about the news,” said Port Everglades Director Steven Cernak. “We’ve deferred any action on the MOU to some other point in time in the future, when we can understand all the issues fully and make sure that they are properly addressed.”
“It’s very strange,” noted Port Everglades employee George Platt. “The governor’s told us for many years how much he supports expansion of our ports and our infrastructure related to ports, here in the State of Florida. It’s bizarre. We trade with China out of this port.”
The governor’s words did not bode well with everyone. “The bottom line is, for 50 years, nothing’s been happening. I think it’s time to try something new, and I don’t know why the governor injected himself into State Department business,” said Larry Derose.
Some at the meeting believe Gov. Scott is simply playing a game of politics. “This is really inappropriate, it’s outrageous and quite frankly, the State of Florida does not make foreign policy. The United States government does,” Platt said.
Scott’s office released a statement saying he appreciated the Port choosing not to do business with the Castro dictatorship.
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