TAMPA - Just back from a fact-finding mission to Havana, Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor found that Cuba is changing, and she believes the U.S. needs to change too.
"I think it's time to try something different," said Castor on Monday, referring to the 51-year-old embargo on trade and travel against Cuba.
Castor believes reforms in Cuba since Fidel Castro stepped down for his brother Raul should be rewarded. .
"They are still a hard core communist nation, but they are embarking on market reforms in their economy, and deserve encouragement," said Castor.
Tampa in particular could get an economic boost by regaining it's historic role as the gateway to Cuba. With Castor's urging, the Obama administration recently allowed carriers to take passengers on the one-hour flight to Havana direct from Tampa International Airport.
But those flights are mostly for Cuban Americans visiting family. Other Americans are generally banned from touring Cuba, which is why pictures of Beyonce and Jay Z strolling through Havana have raised such a fuss.
Cuban Americans debate these issues over lunch at places like Del Rio in West Tampa. Cuban-born businessman Simon Canasi, like many of his generation, believes lifting the trade embargo would only feed the regime of the Castro brothers. But he has come to believe it's time to open the island to unrestricted travel.
"I think the free flow of information to the Cuba people is what will really make a difference in that country. And as a proud American, I have a little problem with my government telling me where I can and cannot travel to," said Canasi.
Congresswoman Castor says she will also urge Secretary of State John Kerry to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror - a distinction that's not even given to North Korea.
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