Havana negociating with Florida bank to open account in U.S.

havana-live-portmanateeHAVANA, May 13  (EFE) The Cuban Interests Section in Washington is studying opening a bank account in Florida after Havana was left without banking abilities in the United States in 2014, a local media outlet reported Wednesday.

The head of the Cuban Interests Section in the United States, Jose Ramon Cabañas Rodriguez, told members of the Greater Manatee Chamber of Commerce, in the city of Bradenton on Florida’s west coast, that Cuba is negotiating with a bank in the state, Miami’s El Nuevo Herald daily reported on Wednesday.

The ability to open bank accounts and use banking services and removal from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism are the Cuban government’s top demands vis-a-vis the United States with an eye toward reestablishing diplomatic relations.

Cabañas visited Port Manatee, which is one of the largest deepwater ports in the United States and is located 482 km (about 300 mi.) from the Cuban port of Mariel, accompanied by Port Manatee chief Carlos Buqueras and several directors of ferry companies.

The companies are interested in adding Port Manatee to the list of ports that can quickly be used for making ocean trips to Cuba, a matter currently being examined by Havana, but Cabañes said that “one should not speculate” about it at this stage.

Several ferry companies in South Florida already have received U.S.-issued licenses to transport passengers by sea to and from Cuba, a service that was interrupted five decades ago but which could be reestablished at the end of this year.

At least four Florida companies are hoping to be able to make ocean trips to Cuba when Havana approves it, after having received the green light from the U.S. government earlier this month.

U.S. approval for ocean journeys back and forth to Cuba has come within the framework of the rapprochement between the two countries, and Washington so far has been eliminating assorted obstacles to travel and trade.