Tampa Leader: Cuban Consulate Would be 'Ultimate Betrayal'

Saturday, November 7, 2015
By Daniel Alvarez in The Tampa Tribune:

Cuban Consulate in Tampa would be ‘ultimate betrayal’

A Cuban Consulate in Tampa is wrong. There really is just no other way to say it. Tampa is the historical home of Cuban freedom. It was on the red brick streets of our famed Ybor City that Jose Marti rallied support and raised funds to help remove the yoke of oppression from the Cuban people.

It was from our port that American men, some led by Teddy Roosevelt, sailed to meet their deaths fighting alongside Cuban rebels in order to secure that very same freedom.

When Fidel Castro’s murderous regime took over, Tampa was one of the key places that provided haven for refugees seeking protection. These are the second-wave immigrants who populated West Tampa, Town ’n Country and Citrus Park. They help make up the 28 percent of the Hispanic population in this county.

And now comes the Hillsborough County Commission, echoing their friends on the Tampa City Council, who want to invite the very people who brutally took away that hard-earned freedom to be our neighbors by asking the dictatorial Cuban government to plant a consulate here. It is a strange world indeed.

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.

A member of my staff just came back from a trip to Cuba sponsored by the Florida Bar, where she was briefed by a Canadian attorney. He warned the Florida lawyers that if their clients were not ready to lose 100 percent of their investment in Cuba, they should stay away.

Because that is how it is. Your infusion of cash must first go to the Castro family — then maybe some will trickle to the people at the bottom doing the real work. That’s how it has always been. Castro and the Communist Party come first.

Supporters tell me that Tampa is the natural choice for the Cuban Consulate because of our longstanding history with the island nation. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told to “get over it” and that we need to “move on” when it comes to Cuba. As the grandson of a man the Cuban government tried to murder, that idea is a little hard to swallow.

For the many Cuban refugees I know who were tortured and unjustly imprisoned, and for the family members of murder victims who have been left behind, asking the Cuban government to move into our ZIP code is the ultimate betrayal. I would remind Tampa’s pro-Cuba supporters that it is this same Cuban government that murders people at will, consistently denies due process and imprisons those who disagree with it.

It has not moved on. It continues to oppress and terrorize its people in a way that no member of the Tampa City Council or Hillsborough County Commission would ever support. Yet they both want to invite them here with all the dignity a legitimate government-to-government relationship would bring. It is shameful.

I understand America’s policy toward Cuba has changed. I reluctantly accept it, but that does not mean this city and county need to abandon everything it would normally stand for just so a select few can make a dollar. As a city, county and a people, we are better than that. Businesses will not be hurt by the lack of a Cuban Consulate. Send it to Orlando. Send it to Jacksonville.

Send it anywhere but here, and we send a message that although we may begin a normalization process with Cuba, we will never abandon our heritage or the legacy of freedom we inherited from those who bled before us.

To do anything less would be just wrong.

Daniel Alvarez is a lawyer and former journalist. Earlier this month he was named Hispanic Man of the Year by Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc.