Miami Beach Officials Open to Housing Cuban Consulate

The controversial Cuban consulate could have its new home in Miami Beach.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Commissioner Ricky Arriola told the Cuban government in a private meeting Wednesday they'd welcome Cuban diplomats in their city.

Cuba and the United States have debated whether to open one in Tampa, but its distance from South Florida has been a negative factor.

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado has strongly opposed any suggestion that his city might house the Cuban government, even threatening to sue in federal court.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he would not object to the consulate, "If the federal government and the government of Cuba decide to put a consulate here, we will provide the protection necessary and whatever protection that we provide to the multitudes of consulates that we have here in this county."

The final decision is not up to Miami or Miami Beach, it would have to go to the full commission for a vote.

In an exclusive interview from Havana, Mayor Levine told NBC 6 anchor Jackie Nespral that warming relations with Cuba is a good idea, "I feel that the Cuban people in Cuba need to understand that there is a connection to Miami and to the United States and we want to give them hope, we want to make sure they have aspiration and I think the way we do that is through connectivity."

Levine was in Cuba leading a seminar for students from Tufts University. The trip, happening at the same time as President Obama's visit, was just a coincidence.

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