Move over Tampa, St. Petersburg looks like the front-runner to become home to the first Cuban consulate in the United States in more than five decades. The Cuban Consular General and his deputy from the embassy in Washington, D.C. visited St. Petersburg over the weekend, but they did more than just speak with city officials, they toured potential office locations.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin have been working for more than a year to lay the groundwork for a Cuban Consulate office in St. Petersburg.
“It’s a priority for the mayor, our international relations council. We really are a welcoming city. We believe we are strategically placed here geographically, there is a long history between St. Petersburg and Cuba and we think it can do a lot for our relations for both countries,” said Dr. Tomalin.
“They were on our real estate scouting trip, they looked at some of St. Petersburg’s best assets and different geography,” said Dr. Tomalin.
While St. Petersburg City officials have toured Havana and extended the invitation for Cuban officials to visit their city, Tampa was not a stop on the tour.
The Tampa City Council, along with the Hillsborough County Commission have joined with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce in voting to bring the consulate to “The Cigar City.”
Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione says she’s disappointed Cuban officials did not visit her city. “I would have liked for them to come look at our city and experienced what Tampa has to offer, but I understand the relationship is just not there yet,” said Montelione.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said on several occasions he would not block the opening of a Cuban Consulate in his city, but may not have extended a strong enough welcome or invitation.
“Well, to be clear, we would see it as a win for anyplace in the region. Absolutely, we are regional in our approach in such important matters,” said Tomalin.