Florida officials travel to Cuba despite attacks that sickened U.S. diplomats

Tampa and St. Petersburg delegations protest U.S. embargo in Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba – Delegations from St. Petersburg and Tampa were in Havana Wednesday to discuss the U.S. embargo and President Donald Trump's new U.S.-Cuba policy. 

Tampa City Council Chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin said she traveled to the island and attended the Minister of External Relations' meeting to establish relationships.

Capin and Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen were there despite facing some opposition and a U.S. State Department warning after the "sonic attack" incidents.

"I am greatly disappointed in the recent taken by The Trump administration," Capin said. 

The Cuban government was promoting a  series of meetings on the topic involving delegates from more than 100 organizations until Nov. 1. The meetings this week lacked some diversity of voices. All of the speakers talked about the economic effects the embargo has had on the Cuban people. 

Supporters of the U.S. embargo, who opposed President Barack Obama's policy of re-engagement,  believe the policy is designed to punish the Cuban government for violations of human rights. 

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice believes Trump overreacted to the "sonic attacks" that affected 22 Americans in Havana without having all of the facts. 

"We share your distress about unsupported hasty comments made without evidence," Rice said during a meeting. 

Capin said the meeting also included discussions about evacuations during storms and the recovery of infrastructure and utilities during the aftermath. Coral conservation and fisheries were also part of the list of topics.

In an effort to build bridges, the Cuban government invited the island's premier ballerina Alicia Alonso, who announced that Cuba's National Ballet will be traveling to Tampa May 23, 2018. 



About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.