Now that Cuba has an embassy again in Washington, D.C., consulates could be coming to serve its people, most of whom live in Florida. Miami and Tampa have the closest historical ties to the island, but they have very different things to say about the idea. Officials in Miami want no part of a consulate. Their politically powerful Cuban-American population is heavily influenced by those who fled Fidel Castro’s 1959 communist revolution and have campaigned against the Castros for five decades since then, sometimes violently. Tampa’s smaller and politically weaker Cuban-American community was formed generations earlier — by people who left the island during the era of the Spanish-American War of 1898, which led to Cuba’s independence from Spain. And Tampa’s leadership sees the opening of relations with Cuba as an economic opportunity, thinking a consulate would enhance Tampa’s position. Consulates are an embassy’s branch offices, providing passport and visa services and emergency aid to visiting Cuban citizens, as well as other resources to U.S. citizens interested in Cuba. Havana has made no official announcement about future consulates, but Cuban diplomat Jose Ramon Cabanas, who has run the Cuban Interests Section, now once again an Embassy, said recently that Cubans in the U.S. have said they need services outside Washington. Before the rupture of diplomatic ties in 1961, Cuba had consulates in both Miami and Tampa.
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Newsline: Cuban consulate possibility divides Miami, Tampa