Florida Five: More fallout from Obama’s Cuba moves, Groups push Medicaid expansion

Five of today’s top Florida political stories that may affect you at your fingertips:

Obama Cuba
Photo credit: Cubanos.org.uk

Move over Miami, Tampa now has big say on Cuba policy too —Turn on cable TV and you won’t have to wait long to see images of Cuban exiles outside the Versailles restaurant in Miami denouncing President Obama for restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. It’s easy for anyone outside of Florida, or even in most of Florida, to assume those images reflect Florida as a whole. They don’t. Tampa’s deep ties to Cuba go back many generations, at least to the days when the Apostle of Cuban Independence, Jose Marti, was in Yboir City talking up the Cuban revolution in the late 19th century. Many Cuban-Americans settled in Tampa before the 1959 revolution and are less consumed with the rise of Castro than exiles in south Florida. And while Miami politicians and campaign donors may have dictated U.S. policy to Cuba for decades, this time Tampa’s political and business leadership – and large Cuban-American community – were more persuasive and helped make the historic change in policy possible. Read more

If Cuba embargo lifted, mayor says Jacksonville should move aggressively to be a trade hub with island – Mayor Alvin Brown, who has banged the drum for boosting jobs through global trade, didn’t take a position Thursday on whether he supports President Barack Obama’s push to normalize relations with Cuba, which once was a major trading partner for Jacksonville’s port. “I don’t know all the details of what the president announced in terms of the policy,” Brown told reporters after he unveiled an assessment of the Jacksonville area’s opportunities for doing business overseas. Brown said if the United States does lift its 54-year-old embargo on Cuba, Jacksonville should move aggressively to be a trade hub with the island, which is located 90 miles off the Florida coast. “I think at the end of the day, when there is the ability to expand and compete in that market, we should,” he said. Read more

Despite rifts, US and Cuba share baseball ties – Despite deep political and ideological differences over the years, Cuba and the United States always have shared a love of baseball. From the Negro Leagues to the current crop of Cuban stars, the communist island and the U.S. are linked by century-old baseball ties. It was during spring training in 1947 in Havana that the Brooklyn Dodgers got an extended look at Montreal Royals star Jackie Robinson, who later that year became broke the major league color barrier. Major league teams regularly held spring training camps in Cuba and played exhibition games there, and the Cincinnati Reds even had a Triple-A affiliate in Havana before Fidel Castro banned professional sports. Read more

Local groups join push to close Medicaid coverage gap in Florida – Elisa Abolafia leaned her cane against the railing in front of City Hall and gingerly stepped to the lectern. The 60-year-old former private investigator suffers from severe scoliosis and four ruptured discs. Looking for work and too young for Medicare, Abolafia said she recently found out she is in the so-called Medicaid coverage gap, so she pays out-of-pocket for a patchwork of medical care. Thursday, she stood beside Mayor Rick Kriseman and City Council member Darden Rice and pleaded with the state Legislature to accept federal dollars to expand the Medicaid program in Florida. Read more

Deutch vows to fight for undocumented kids – A local congressman is calling for legislation to ease the plight of thousands of undocumented children from Central America who arrived in South Florida this year. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, says the children should be entitled to legal representation once here. Deutch said he plans to push for a bill, when Congress reconvenes in January, requiring the U.S. attorney general to make sure each child is represented by an attorney. Deutch’s call to action comes after the Sun Sentinel and its sister paper El Sentinel published a four-monthlong special project that chronicled the lives of Central American youngsters who crossed illegally into the United States this year, and ended up with family members in South Florida. Titled “The Uncertain Future of Undocumented Children,” the article shed light on the children’s complex journey through the U.S. legal system. Read more

Not so fast: Cuban Rum is now slightly more within Americans’ reach

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