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Miami Rejects Hosting Cuban Consulate, But Tampa Wants It


When two countries haven't officially talked to each other for decades, restoring diplomatic relations involves, well, a lot of talking. Next week, a top state department official heads to Cuba to discuss how the U.S. and Cuba will restore diplomatic ties, and one thing that has to be worked out is the opening of embassies and consulates in both countries. Already one city has served notice that it would not welcome a Cuban consulate. That would be Miami, where NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: More than 800,000 Cuban-Americans call Miami-Dade County home. That's about 1 in every 3 residents. It's the largest Cuban-American population in the country and therefore might seem like a logical location for a Cuban consulate. But Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado doesn't think so. He says one thing Miami definitely doesn't need is a Cuban consulate.

MAYOR TOMAS REGALADO: A consulate here will create tensions in the community.

ALLEN: Regalado recalls a protest that occurred often at the Venezuelan consulate in Miami until it was shut down by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2011. He says a Cuban consulate would cause even more problems for the city and its police department.

REGALADO: It would harm the safety and the peace of the community. It would put a burden and unfounded mandate from Washington in the city of Miami, and I don't think that we want TV cameras live every day showing protests and people engaging in discussions and maybe fistfight or something like that.

ALLEN: But Miami isn't the only city in Miami-Dade County. The county mayor, Carlos Gimenez, is a bit more circumspect, saying only that it's premature at this point to discuss whether a Cuban consulate should be located in the county. The three Cuban-Americans who represent Miami-Dade County in Congress are critical of the president's Cuba proposals and have vowed to block normalization. But elsewhere in Florida, some officials see a Cuban consulate as an opportunity.

REPRESENTATIVE KATHY CASTOR: The Tampa area would welcome a consulate.

ALLEN: Congresswoman Kathy Castor represents Tampa, another city with a large Cuban-American population. It's a city with long historical ties to Cuba that go back to the 19th century when Miami was still an Indian trading post. Castor supports normalization and, along with other political and business leaders in the city, has worked to promote trade ties with Cuba.

CASTOR: In Tampa, we've been more open - our port, our airport. We've embraced the current reforms and now are looking forward to the real fall in the relationship.

ALLEN: Tampa's airport hopes to expand the number of direct flights it already offers to Cuba. The city's port recently set out a press release saying it's ready to move to, quote, "aggressively market its first-rate facilities to our Cuban neighbors." Tampa may get a boost in its bid from those most likely to use a new Cuban consulate, those who travel there or have visitors from the island. Among Cuban-Americans in Florida, a recent poll by the Miami Herald found more opposed a Cuban consulate in Miami than supported. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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