The U.S. recently reopened its embassy in Havana, but controversy over normalization continues. The Tampa Tiger Bay Club hosted a debate on the issue at the historic Centro Asturiano Club in Ybor City.
This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 a.m.) we are bringing you highlights of the debate between two outspoken rivals: Ralph Fernandez and Albert Fox, Jr. It was moderated by Jeff Patterson of News Channel 8.
“I get to ask the first question, and I knew that this was going to be tough, because both of these men could not be further apart on this issue. I asked actually to sit in the middle tonight, not to separate them from fisticuffs, but I knew that they were going to have differing opinions,” Patterson said. “But let me ask this, because in no legal agreement, in no business deal, in no divorce, does anyone get what they want. There’s always a compromise position. So what’s your compromise position?”
Fox said he feels vindicated because “it is now the official position of the United States to have diplomatic relations with Cuba.”
“Our flag’s been raised,” Fox said. “I feel that the point of view that I’ve been espousing for all these years has won, and the genie is out of the bottle and there’s no turning back now."
According to Fernandez, the doors to Cuba should be shut.
“What’s happened in Cuba is that there has always been an escape valve,” he said. “Right now, it is inconceivable – either Republican or Democratic concerns related to the immigration crisis – how come we have in this day and age, a 'wet foot, dry foot' policy, and the Cubans that arrive now get to violate every restriction and rule related to admittance to the United States? Everybody’s worried about illegal immigration, and yet what we have is a constant flow of people that come.”
Fox is the founder of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation. Fernandez is an attorney who has been one of the most vocal anti-Castro voices in the Tampa area.
Some restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba were eased earlier this year by the Obama administration.