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Tampa wants dibs on any future U.S.-Cuba pact signings

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

They’ve already declared their support for a Cuban consulate to be housed in Tampa. Now they want any major agreement between the Cuban and U.S. governments to be signed in Tampa as well.

By a 5-0 vote, Tampa City Council on Thursday passed “The Tampa Accord.” The  resolution proposed by Councilwoman Yolie Capin offers the city to host any official agreement signings between the two neighboring countries. Charlie Miranda and Lisa Montelione were not at the dais at the time of the vote.

“It is only natural that Tampa be the location for formalizing the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba,” Capin said Thursday morning. “It has been well established that no city in the U.S. has stronger historic ties with Cuba than Tampa does.”

Tampa has long been linked with Cuba, such as providing sanctuary and support for freedom fighter Jose Marti who’s honored by a small Ybor City park. Capin recounted how her late husband Juan Capin sat down with President Obama when he appeared at the Cuban Club in 2007, and said that after he became president, should there be a “meeting of the minds” between the leaders of the two nations, it should take place in Tampa.

“It’s something that should have been done a long time ago,” said Vic DiMaio, who mentioned that his grandparents immigrated to Tampa from Cuba to become part of the cigar industry here nearly a century ago.

He also mentioned pioneers of the past five years in getting the Tampa business and political establishment to support liberalization of policies with the Cuban government. He was referring to the late Steve Burton and Mary Mulhern, who left the council last month after eight years.

“She got a lot of ridicule for that,” DiMaio said, adding he was glad that other council members who were reluctant to support such resolutions in the past (such as Mike Suarez) are now on board. He said it was time for Mayor Bob Buckhorn to follow suit. “The administration needs to provide more leadership on this issue,” he said.

Buckhorn is more old-school than new when it comes to warming relations with Cuba.  He’s steadfastly said that he would not do anything to block a Cuban consulate from coming to Tampa, but also wouldn’t lift a finger to try to lure it here. It’s a position he’s held throughout his political career.

That stance is opposed by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, who has written a letter in support of The Tampa Accord.

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

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