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E.J. Otero blasts Hillsborough Commissioners for supporting Cuban consulate in Tampa

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Much of the Tampa Bay area business and political establishment is all in with having a Cuban consulate established in Tampa, so when the Hillsborough County Commission approved the idea recently, there was little resistance stated by any board members or members of the public.

Since then, though,  two prominent Hillsborough Republicans – Danny Alvarez and now E.J. Otero – have slammed the board for its endorsement.

Alvarez expressed his disavowal last week in an op-ed published in The Tampa Tribune on Oct. 28, writing that, “I am quite sick and tired of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce and its like pushing a money-driven agenda veiled in false promises of freedom for the Cuban people. It’s amazing how blind one can become after a few mojito-laced walks through Ol’ Havana on ‘fact-finding’ missions guided by a government handler.”

On Wednesday, Otero, a former Air Force officer with Cuban roots, told the commission during the public hearing portion of its meeting that if a Cuban consulate is established in Ybor City, potential spies for the Cuban government could end residing just four miles away from MacDill Air Force Base.

Otero said that with 440,000 military veterans in the area, “You’re opening the objectives of those individuals to go after them and pump them for info, some willingly, some not. That’s how the intelligence world works. It’s very dangerous.”

He went on to denounce the Castro-led Cuban government for torturing not only human rights critics, but African-Cubans and members of the LGTB community outside of Havana. “It is ridiculous. There are no protections,” he said with anger.

Otero ran unsuccessfully for Congress against Kathy Castor in 2010. He’s been said to be a possible candidate in the Republican primary District 6 County Commission race, but hasn’t made any indication he’ll enter the contest.

Not everybody is for a Cuban consulate coming to Tampa. Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been openly unenthusiastic about the idea, saying that he would do nothing to stop the proposal, but also wouldn’t lift a finger to recruit such a facility to the city.

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 mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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