Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade County leaders oppose Cuban consulate in Miami

The Cuban flag is raised over the re-opened Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2015.
The Cuban flag is raised over the re-opened Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2015. AP

Until democracy comes to Cuba, a Cuban consulate should not come to Miami, county leaders proclaimed Wednesday.

In a 9-3 vote, Miami-Dade County commissioners urged the federal government to avoid placing a Cuban consulate on their turf. The talk of a hypothetical consulate in Miami has grown as President Barack Obama pursues warmer relations with the island nation.

Cuba’s embassy in Washington reopened in July. The typical next step would be a U.S. consulate in a city with a large Cuban immigrant population.

The Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. reopened on July 20, 2015, after 54 years. Hundreds of onlookers and protestors gathered less than two miles due north from the White House to watch the historic flag raising, the next big step on Obama's ongo

Miami obviously fits that description, but County Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo — the son of a Bay of Pigs veteran — says the time is not right. Bovo, who sponsored the county’s anti-consulate resolution Wednesday, said talks between Washington and Havana haven’t produced meaningful changes in how the Cuban government treats its people. The Cuban government is still oppressive, he said, and a consulate location in Miami’s exile community could spark protests, and leave Miami-Dade taxpayers to foot the bill for the cost of protecting consular officials.

“To think for a second, to have the Cuban government here, the dictatorship basically, here in Miami, I think is an affront to a huge majority of the Cuban-American community,” Bovo told the Herald after his measure passed.

Bovo isn’t the only local elected official strongly opposed to the consulate idea. Earlier this week, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said he would sue to block a Cuban consulate from opening within city limits. A 2014 Bendixen & Amandi poll found that Cuban Americans nationally favored the idea of a Miami consulate (50 percent in support, 39 percent opposed) while exiles in Florida were less supportive, with 41 percent in support, and 46 percent opposed.

Bovo’s resolution is largely symbolic, and would not prevent the federal government from placing a consulate wherever it wants, including Miami. The county’s lobbying team in Washington will now have orders to push back against being chosen as a consulate location, and the county’s formal statement in opposition is being transmitted to President Obama, Florida’s congressional delegation and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Bovo said he is not aware of any time line for the placement of a Cuban consulate, so it’s possible that the federal government won’t open one — anywhere — for a while.

Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, in supporting Bovo’s resolution, said she was trying to be “sensitive to all communities.”

“If it makes that particular group uncomfortable, then we should not do it,” she said.

Voting against the resolution were commissioners Barbara Jordan, Daniella Levine Cava and Xavier Suarez. During debate on the issue, Jordan said, “Miami is the most logical place to come.”

“We have to start healing somewhere,” she said. “And to me, it’s a process of healing.”

Suarez, who hails from Las Villas, Cuba, told a reporter that the decision is ultimately up to the federal government.

“It’s not within our jurisdiction,” Suarez said. “I don’t have any major concern about having to protect the people that are there, because I think the people here will act lawfully.

“In fact, it’s a good place to go and demonstrate.”