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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Cuban business leaders toured Port Everglades Thursday and met with port officials but were unable to complete the highlight of it – a cooperation pact.

The signing of the pact was canceled after Florida Governor Rick Scott threatened to cut off state funding to any port that entered into an agreement with Cuba, according to our news partners at the Miami Herald. 

“The port is doing business with a ruthless dictator,” said Gov. Scott. “I know some of our ports are going to be meeting with individuals from Cuba. Some of them are going to sign MOUs which I think is not good for the state.”

Just a day before, the governor took to Twitter to voice his concern and planned actions if an agreement was made.

For Port Everglades, the funding cut would have meant $37 million over the next five years.

While the Legislature, which sets the state budget, could have tried to ignore the governor’s request, the possibility of a cut was worrisome to port officials.

The non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU)  was to be signed by Port Everglades officials and the National Port Administration of Cuba. The agreement was meant to improve cooperation on matters like studies, training, trade flows and data sharing.

“We are in a global world. It is certainly a global economy. There is trade. Trade is a big part of the world that we live in today and a seaport is just a natural facilitator of the movement of that trade,” said Port Everglades Director Steven Cernak.

Thursday morning, the port issued a statement on the matter saying,

“The National Port Administration of Cuba has indicated to Port Everglades administration that there is no need for a memorandum of understanding at this time. However, today’s business meeting and related activities will continue as planned.”

Cuban Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas tweeted a picture of the delegation at the port.

A spokesperson for the governor later issued a statement on the cancellation of the pact, saying  “The Governor appreciates the port choosing not to do business with the Castro dictatorship.”

As for future interactions with a Cuban delegation, Cernak said “There are opportunities. I mean in my conversations with the Cuban delegation, they are forthright. They see opportunities. Certainly, we’re in a world that continually changes and these are one of the changes that are currently ongoing so it seems to me that in order to move forward we have to understand everybody’s collective issues.”

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)


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