Members of the community spoke passionately Monday night at Miami Beach City Hall in reaction to the suggestion that Miami Beach could host a Cuban consulate.
The city’s citizen Hispanic Affairs Committee hosted a public discussion on the topic, which has become a political lightning rod. A majority of speakers, some from Miami Beach and many from around Miami-Dade, decried the idea that a consulate could open in the seaside city. Not all opposed. A smaller group of residents favored a consulate.
After about three hours of public comments, the committee sided with detractors who called for more reforms in Cuba before welcoming diplomats. They passed a resolution urging the City Commission to formally oppose a Cuban consulate in the Beach so long as the communist island nation’s government continues “its violation of basic freedoms and human rights.”
During a trip to Cuba in late March, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Commissioner Ricky Arriola met with the island nation’s Foreign Relations Ministry. The two Beach officials said they would welcome Cuban diplomats in their city.
Julia Davila, a Cuban immigrant who has lived in Miami Beach for 47 years, said she came following political imprisonment. She said anyone who has seen the suffering of political prisoners in Cuba would adamantly oppose a consulate.
“Put it somewhere else,” she said. “Put it out by Lake Okeechobee.”
A few people who supported a consulate were met with boos and jeers. Jose Miro, who came from Cuba 22 years ago, said he thinks a consulate in Miami-Dade, not necessarily in Miami Beach, would help thousands of Cubans who want to visit family.
“I respect the pain, and I respect all the opinions,” he said. “But if we have family in Cuba, we wouldn’t have to travel far to resolve an administrative problem.”