After six years in the making, a historic deal between the Port of Palm Beach and Cuba came to an abrupt end after Gov. Rick Scott threatened to cut state funding to any port doing business with Cuba.
On Friday a Cuban delegation met with Port of Palm Beach officials but the highlight of the meeting, the singing of the MOU, never happened.
“I was taken back by it and totally disappointed," said Executive Director of the Port of Palm Beach, Manuel Almira. "The signing ceremony would have been here. This would have been historic.”
What kept the ink from drying on the piece of paper was a series of tweets from Gov. Scott saying he opposed the deal and would cut funding.
“There’s no human rights down there and I don’t think our ports should be doing business with a brutal dictator like that," Gov. Scott said. "I know some ports were looking at doing an MOU and I think that’s wrong. I don’t believe they should be doing that. We’re going to be business with places that are not doing what Raul Castro is doing," said Governor Scott during a visit to Riviera Beach Thursday.
The Cuban delegation on Friday had a message for the governor.
“I would only invite the governor to come visit our country,” said Ana Garza with the Cuban delegation.
The port doesn't get a specific amount of money allocated from the state. Instead officials have to apply for funds for specific projects.
Almira said he was surprised by the outrage from the governor.
"We're not doing business with Cuba," Almira said. "The private sector does business with Cuba."
Port of Palm Beach officials also said the competition is tough and Palm Beach is now losing out since other states like Texas, New York and Alabama have signed agreements with Cuba.
Also disappointed about the end of the deal was Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters who stood up during the news conference to express a warm welcome to the Cuban delegation.
"We're offering you the key to the City of Riveria Beach," Masters said.
While the MOU didn't get signed, officials on both sides intend to continue talks.
“I think what’s happening is not going to limit the work that we’re going to do,” Garza said.