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We're living in a bizarro world where Republican state legislators are willing to defy loyal lobbyists and increase taxes on alcohol and tobacco, plus give serious consideration to a compact that would let the Seminoles gamble Vegas-style. And now there are increasing signs that another favorite policy of state conservatives is threatened: economic sanctions and travel restrictions to Cuba.
The two sides have long argued over whether the trade embargo is an effective way to pressure the totalitarian Castro regime. But the critics of sanctions have recently gained advantages in this battle, not just from the election of a president whose campaign talked about a reappraisal of policies toward Cuba, but from an economic climate that has the government desperate to find new ways of generating commerce. Today's St. Pete Times cites a University of Florida study that estimates an economic impact of $1.7 billion just in Cuba's agricultural trade. The article quotes a Fort Lauderdale businessman, Richard Waltzer, who found a loophole in the embargo to sell a citrus soft drink popular among tourist visitors to the island.
Waltzer's multimillion-dollar business with Cuba has grown at a 20 percent rate annually since he began. He added four jobs at his Fort Lauderdale firm just to handle Cuba.
The embargo's end would infuriate South Florida's Cuban exile community; on the other hand, South Florida stands to be a big economic winner if the policy is reversed.