Florida’s past two Governors showcased the conflicting views about policy toward Cuba, after President Donald Trump’s administration this week banned a popular way to travel to the island nation.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican who left the Governor’s office in January, gave full support to the decision. Scott, an ally of Trump, said money spent in Cuba goes directly to the Castro regime and helps keep President Nicholas Maduro in power in Venezuela.
“Cuba continues to be the most powerful force propping up Nicholas Maduro as he starves and kills his own people,” Scott said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Scott’s predecessor in the Governor’s office, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, released a joint statement with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat, opposing Trump’s move. They also noted the impact on Florida’s cruise industry.
“Banning U.S. cruise lines and most Americans from traveling to Cuba hurts Florida’s economy and is a major step backwards for U.S.-Cuba policy,” the statement said. “The American people are our best ambassadors for spreading democracy and freedom.”
Crist was elected Governor as a Republican in 2006 and later became an independent and, ultimately, a Democrat.
Scott has recently floated the idea of a naval blockade off Cuba to limit Venezuela’s oil sales.
The Treasury Department action this week blocks what are known as “people to people” trips to the island. Crist contends that rolling back the policy will “push an island nation 90 miles off our shores further into the hands of our adversaries.”
“Americans can travel to Moscow, Beijing, virtually anywhere in the world, but not Havana? It doesn’t make sense,” the statement by Crist and Castor said.
Last month, Scott criticized Crist for having traveled with little publicity to the island in April on a trip sponsored by the Center for Democracy in the Americas.