Thursday on “First Coast Connect” we spoke with former Jacksonville City Council President Eric Smith and retired long-time diplomat John Caulfield about an upcoming trade mission to Cuba. Black Commission president Diallo Sekou and vice president Lauren Cephus talked about Saturday’s Parent Education Support Workshop, and 5 and Dime Theatre executive director Lee Hamby and cast member Rodney Holmes previewed their upcoming performance “A New Brain.”   

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Former Jacksonville City Councilman Eric Smith is heading up a local delegation to Cuba next week, comprised of local business leaders seeking more trade with the island nation.

John Burr

As diplomatic relations improve between Cuba and the U.S., more and more people are traveling to the island nation.  Among them is WJCT business analyst John Burr, who traveled there recently with a group from his church. 


As President Barack Obama wraps up his historic visit to Cuba, we examine how relations between the country and the United States could evolve with John Caulfield, retired diplomat and former chief of mission with the U.S. interest section in Havana.

Tax Tips

Accountant and financial consultant Andrew Poulos, who runs the site, joins us with filing tips for tax season.

Dreams Come True

plane in flight
Silver Airways

As relations thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, Jacksonville could get a flight to the island country.

Fort Lauderdale-based Silver Airways has applied for permission to fly from Jacksonville to Cuba, saying it wants to be a bridge between here and there.

If approved, the flights would happen twice a week and fly into Havana. Silver has also applied for flights from Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Key West and is looking to serve 10 cities in Cuba.

An internal investigation is underway following the deaths of two inmates at Baker Correctional Institution in Sanderson, Florida last week.

They’re just the latest inmate deaths in Florida, which have sparked calls for reform of the state’s correctional system. Florida has the third-largest prison system in the nation, with more than 100,000 inmates and a $2.1 billion budget.

The U.S. and Cuba have restored diplomatic relations and reopened their embassies — but it's not yet open season for American tourists hoping to visit the island. The U.S. embargo on travel and business means you still have to have a valid reason to go — and that doesn't include sitting on the beach and drinking mojitos.

(This post was last updated at 10:45 a.m. ET.)

After 54 years of animosity, the United States and Cuba have formally restored diplomatic ties.

That means that the U.S. opened an embassy in Havana and Cuba opened an embassy in Washington, D.C., this morning.

President Obama on Wednesday announced the formal resumption of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba after more than half a century of hostilities. The two countries have agreed to reopen embassies in Washington and Havana.

Standing in the White House Rose Garden, Obama called it "a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people."

Obama said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana this summer to "proudly raise the flag over our embassy once more."

As the U.S. works to normalize relations with Cuba, we speak with John Caulfield, retired American diplomat and former Chief of Mission with the US Interests Section in Havana, about what we could expect in the coming months in years for the island nation. As Havana’s senior U.S. diplomat, Caulfield achieved agreements on immigration, environmental protection, civil aviation and cultural exchange; championed the aspirations of ordinary Cubans to increase their political rights and economic opportunities in a difficult environment.  

State Department

As the U.S. and Cuba edge closer to an agreement to restore full diplomatic ties, a retired State Department official who served as the senior diplomat in Cuba says Florida is well-positioned to take advantage of the historic changes.

The WJCT and NPR program "State of the Re:Union" was recently awarded a George Foster Peabody Award for its 2014 season. We speak with host and producer Al Letson about the honor, and look back on the show that is currently in its final season.

In our monthly First Coast Connet Book Club segment, book blogger Stacey Goldring joins us to discuss Cristina Garcia's novel "Dreaming in Cuban" along with two special guests.

And we preview the return of the Jacksonville Greek Festival with event members Father Nicholas Louh and Tom Gibson.

As the United States reopens diplomatic talks with Cuba, Melissa Ross speaks with Tracey Eaton, journalism professor at Flagler College and former Havana bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News, about what possible changes could be coming for Cuban citizens.

We also speak with Raul Espinosa, founder of the Fairness in Procurement Alliance and partner of the Umbrella Initiative at UNF, about a local think tank working to give small and disadvantaged business owners a level playing field when it comes to federal contracts.

Caulfield speaking
United States Interests Section Havana

More elected officials are condemning President Obama’s decision to release Cuban prisoners in exchange for American contractor Alan Gross. Among the latest voices of opposition is Northeast Florida Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL4). But others are cautiously optimistic about what could lead to better relations between the two countries.

Longtime diplomat John Caulfield headed the U.S. mission in Havana, Cuba, until last year, when he retired to Jacksonville. In Cuba, Caulfield says he saw firsthand the struggle of imprisoned contractor Alan Gross.

The chances for another member of the Bush family to run for office may have increased, as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declared official interest by attacking President Obama’s stance on relations with Cuba.

Bush announced this week he will explore a run for presidency in 2016, as well as call for a stronger embargo against Cuba.

“I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relations with them until there are substantive changes on the island,” Bush told Miami Herold reporter Marc Caputo Wednesday morning.