Editorial Opinion, Sun Sentinel
Havana and Washington appear to be in no mood to talk. That said, both countries share a common interest in a common waterway — the Florida Straits.
All Floridians ought to be very concerned about Cuba's plans to drill for oil off its northern coast. Last year's experience with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which ended with 11 people dead and a massive gusher at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, demonstrated how one mistake can put an entire region's ecology and economy at risk.
Florida got relatively lucky in the Gulf disaster. We wouldn't be nearly as lucky if something similar happened in the Straits. At risk would be Florida's environment, from the Keys up to sensitive Florida Bay, not to mention the critically important beaches on our Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Florida's interests are at a precarious position here, but neither the state nor the federal government hold much sway over Havana. That's the result of 50-plus years of Cold War between the two countries.
Further compounding matters, diplomacy between the two neighboring countries is in one of its freeze cycles.
U.S. officials have been critical — and rightly so — of yet another crackdown on dissidents and pro-democracy movements on the island. The wave of arrests and detentions is further proof that Cuba's communist government has no intention of easing its grip, no matter who is in charge.
Meanwhile, Havana continues to insist that Washington release and return the so-called Cuban Five, a quintet of individuals convicted in 2001 of spying for Cuba. By contrast, Washington wants to see Cuba release an American, Alan Gross, whom Cuba has sent to prison on charges of supplying pro-democracy groups with telecommunications equipment.
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson traveled to Cuba last month to seek Gross' release. That effort failed.
So now, amid one of the coldest moments in recent U.S.-Cuba relations, Havana is embarking on a drilling plan that could put Florida in jeopardy in the wake of a massive spill.
We understand it's not the most propitious of times to prod conversations between both governments. It never really is.
But we also know that Washington and Havana held periodic conversations on particular matters, such as military issues and immigration. We believe the drilling effort is important enough for the two governments to quietly discuss, too.
Both countries have plenty at stake here. Oil drilling, like immigration, ought to be put above the diplomatic and political fray.