Shipments of various goods have continued to flow through Florida’s seaports and airports to Cuba even though Governor Rick Scott doesn’t think the state’s ports should be trading with what he called the “Cuban dictatorship,” according to reports. In January, Scott threatened to strip state funds from two Florida ports that wanted to sign cooperation agreements with the Cuban government.
Scott scribed a series of Twitter posts saying he would ask state lawmakers to restrict funding for ports that “enter into any agreement with [the] Cuban dictatorship,” and that “we cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior.”
The governor’s tweets stopped the Port of Palm Beach and Port Everglades from signing cooperation agreements with the Cuban port administration. True to his word, Scott worded his 2017 budget recommendation to withhold funds for infrastructure improvements from ports that signed agreements with Cuba. Florida lawmakers will have to decide whether to leave Scott’s proviso in the 2017 budget at a session on March 7.
According to McKinley Lewis, Scott’s deputy communications director, the governor’s wording only applied to agreements made between a Florida port and Cuba, and not to port users. That means private companies (like cruise lines or shipping businesses) won’t jeopardize funding for the state’s ports.
The distinction is important because the state’s ports don’t actually do any business with Cuba; only private companies and individuals can do that. But Scott’s provision may stop ports from signing cooperation agreements and performing joint marketing studies with Cuba.
According to news sources, trade between Florida and Cuba has been steady over the past year and totaled almost $65 million in revenue in 2016. Food, agricultural products, humanitarian donations, and medical supplies are just some of the goods that are being shipped to Cuba.
Rules for imports from Cuba also changed last year, allowing the island to legally send imports to Florida for the first time in 50 years. Just last month, Cuba’s first import in more than half a century (two containers of artisan charcoal) arrived at Port Everglades. Trade between Florida and Cuba is likely to continue to expand despite Gov. Scott’s stance.