The panel of three local mayors discussing how the United States should approach doing business with Cuba was going predictably Friday until Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a likely Democratic candidate for Florida governor, brought up a word that, once upon a time in Miami, might have caused a political maelstrom: invasion.
“Why aren’t we discussing the invasion of the island?” Levine said.
He wasn’t endorsing the idea of a military incursion. A few moments earlier, Levine had argued that the best way to help Cubans themselves was to engage in open commerce with the island.
But he had no support for the expanded-business position from his colleagues, Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason and Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez. Cason, a Republican former head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, had in fact espoused the opposite view, questioning the ethics of any business that would enrich the pockets of the Cuban military.
So Levine made his provocative remark, predicting that a U.S.-led military operation “would probably take 24 hours at best.”
A few people in the crowd chuckled. Neither Bermudez nor Cason took him seriously. Levine later told the Miami Herald he’d been trying to highlight — perhaps inartfully — that opponents of the Obama administration’s Cuba opening, like Cason, couldn’t offer any better solutions.
The surprising exchange reflected how much the conversation on Cuba has changed in Miami. The suggestion that American troops might land on Cuban shores — a failed strategy under former President John F. Kennedy — is now a laugh line. The question of what to do instead, however, remains difficult for local politicians to answer.
Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff