With Cuba off terror list, Rep. Castor calls for Tampa embassy

click to enlarge Former Cuban Consul Raul Villamia chats with Rep. Castor Friday about newly-forged relations with Cuba. - OFFICE OF U.S. REP. KATHY CASTOR
office of u.s. rep. kathy castor
Former Cuban Consul Raul Villamia chats with Rep. Castor Friday about newly-forged relations with Cuba.

After she returned from a 2013 visit to Cuba, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry recommending the U.S. remove Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list.

Fast-forward to Friday, when the U.S. finally did so. According to a media release, when Castor heard the news, she happened to be visiting with Raul Villamia, 90, the former Tampa Cuban Consul. The two, plus Willamia's daughter, were in her Tampa district office talking about the history of the Tampa Cuban consulate. Villamia was occupying his former post at the time of the revolution.

"I was honored to share this historic moment with a man who has lived through so much of this history,” she said in a written statement.

Kind of a neat coincidence, eh?

Anyway, the terrorism listing, which has been a sore point as the U.S. and Cuba have begun to thaw relations between one another—including, even, a Cuba forum her office organized that was reportedly affected by the listing. So taking away the designation? Probably a good thing.

“This important step forward will lift families and entrepeneurs on both sides of the Florida straits. I anticipate that the opening embassies of is imminent," she said.

Many Tampa officials and activists say the city is the perfect site for a Cuban embassy. The City Council recently passed a resolution asking that any important events involving a signing ceremony between the two countries be held in Tampa.

Villamia agrees, Castor said.

“Mr. Villamia expressed his desire to improve relations between the United States and Cuba and his hope that a new consulate would be opened in Tampa," she said in the written statement. "Mr. Villamia, who said he never wanted to be a politician, just a baseball player, recalls that protestors after the revolution were good people and easy to calm. He said that if Tampa were to serve as a consulate city, people today would be respectful as well.”