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Kathy Castor to lead bipartisan congressional delegation to Cuba this weekend

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Tampa Bay area Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor will be leading a congressional delegation to Cuba this weekend.

Castor will be departing from Tampa International Airport on Saturday with Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer. Last year the two members filed legislation to lift the Cuban embargo and allow for businesses and the private sector to trade freely with Cuba. They are also co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Cuba Working Group, started late last year to press for congressional action to build on progress. It will be Castor’s first trip to Cuba since the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States.

Castor has been a change agent in regard to pushing U.S. policy toward Cuba.

After she visited the island in 2013, she forcefully declared that the U.S. government’s 50-year plus restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba no longer made any sense — and went further in condemning the sanctions than any Florida lawmaker had ever done.

Castor wrote a letter to President Barack Obama after her visit, calling on him to go beyond the incremental moves he had made in relations with Cuba. In 2009, Obama moved to remove restrictions on family travel and money transfers. In 2011, he gave permission to eight more airports (including Tampa International) to offer direct charter flights to and from Cuba.

In December 2014, Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two nations. Since then, U.S. and Cuban embassies have reopened in Havana and Washington.

Castor has been active in advocating that a Cuban consulate be located in Tampa as well. The Tampa Greater Chamber of Commerce supports the idea though Mayor Bob Buckhorn opposes it.

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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