Last December, President Obama announced a possible normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S.- a decision that places Florida directly in line to be affected by the consequences.
Senator Anitere Flores, Chair of Senate Fiscal Policy Committee, shares the historical context of the discussions and why the U.S. – and Florida— must exercise caution.
“Just imagine yourself or your family members having, from one day to the next, absolutely everything is taken away from you… and the person who took that away is still the person in power,” explained Sen. Flores. “Where the president made a mistake number one, was in not consulting those who are affected by this but number two was not listening to history. History of relations with Cuba have shown that the Castro brothers at any given moment will take what they want for themselves and this time doesn’t show us that it’s going to be any different.”
Throughout the many Washington D.C. trips the Florida Chamber takes to meet with Florida’s congressional delegation, one thing has always been clear- Cuba has the power to end the embargo today if they take certain steps.
“A lot of people think that the embargo is something that is imposed unilaterally by the United States onto Cuba,” said Sen. Flores. “But the united states congress took action to say that if Cuba takes certain steps- free political prisoners, have free and fair elections- if they took those steps, then the embargo would be lifted. So if Cuba would simply move toward democracy, move toward democratic principles, then the embargo would be lifted right away and they could be our partners.”
In the Florida Senate, Sen. Flores has stood resolute in sharing Florida’s positon.
“Just recently, the Florida Senate took a very affirmative step in standing with our colleagues… in saying—we are not going to stand for normalization with Cuba until Cuba starts to embrace democratic principles, which is the opposite of what’s being done right now,” said Sen. Flores. “Cuba is a place where the visitor can have it all— where they can go to the best hotels, stay on the most beautiful beaches— but residents receive a ration book every single month that dictates what you can eat and when you can eat it. The same happens with companies. Companies in Cuba are not allowed to make decisions as to who to hire, what to pay- all of that is dictated by the government. That’s not something that we should stand for in the United States, we should stand for freedom because if we don’t stand for freedom, then who will?”
In Florida, we stand for free enterprise principles- they have helped our economy thrive and succeed past times when many thought our state was over. The Florida Chamber has a long-standing position opposing normalizing relations with Cuba, and as long as there is a dictator that won’t recognize democracy, freedom and free enterprise as a path toward a better life for its people, our position will remain the same. Sen. Flores urged caution for businesses thinking of working with Cuba’s “free enterprise” principles.
“I would ask them to be very careful,” said Sen. Flores. “Nothing has happened over the last 55 years that shows that the Castro government would treat businesses today any differently. Right now, there is no free enterprise. Things that are done under the cloak, under the wording of free enterprise in Cuba, those folks are told who to hire, are told what to pay, are told when to open, what businesses they can deal with. One can’t wake up one day and say you know, today I want to open a nail salon or today I want to have a trucking business— you have to ask the Cuban government and say ‘can I be in this business’. And then the government makes that decision and they govern every single decision that is made by that company. So I would warn those who are watching or business executives from around the country to just be very careful because the Castro regime has shown us that they will do nothing in the future that is different than what they’ve done in the past.”