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Could Tampa be home to a future Cuban consulate?

TAMPA -- Tampa would be an ideal spot for a new Cuban consulate - at least according to Rep. Kathy Castor.

But that idea has many asking why. While Miami is the city with the largest Cuban-American population, Miami Mayor Tomas Pedro Regalado has already said he’s not interested, saying it would only bring controversy to his city. Now, Tampa is speculated to be the next option because of its Cuban heritage and history.

From Ybor City’s famous Cuban cigar shops, to Tampa’s Cuban history dating back to the 1800’s, Mayor Bob Buckhorn says Tampa is now home to thousands of Cuban-Americans.

"Many fled Castro’s regime, many spent years in Castro’s jails," Buckhorn said. "Many came here with nothing but the shirt on their back because Castro took their property and their families property."He says with Tampa known as the cradle of Cuban independence, there are many things to consider before selecting Tampa as the city for the consulate.

"They still bear the scars literally and figuratively what Castro has done to the Cuban people," Buckhorn said. "We need to recognize who it is we’re dealing with and what he has done to many of our friends and our neighbors in this community."

The Console General’s office would promote trade and diplomatic relations. It could potentially benefit families moving back and forth from Cuba.

The decision will be up to the US Government and the Cuban Government, and while Mayor Buckhorn says he’ll support whatever decision is made, he wants to keep in mind the emotional history effecting all of Tampa’s Cuban-American families.

"We can’t lose sight of the fact that this is not a rush for contracts that we also need to talk about that there is no freedom of press, there is no freedom of religion, there are no democratic reforms anticipated," Buckhorn said. "There are still political prisoners being incarcerated every day."

Castor made the suggestion as a U.S. delegation prepares for a visit to Havana next week.

Right now, it is just speculation. There haven’t been any official discussions.

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