Travel Agency Destroyed, Owner Suspects It Was Firebombed For Booking Trips to Cuba

A Coral Gables travel agency exploded into flames early this morning. Police dogs detected accelerant inside the burnt out building, according to Channel 10 News. And the agency's owner says she suspects it was firebombed in retaliation for booking flights to Cuba.

"It's not that it's burned. It's pulverized," Airline Broker owner Vivian Mannerud told Channel 10. "All I know is that I have never seen a fire do pulverize things. I've seen it in pictures of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima."

"I just did the big papal visit," she said. "That put me in the news a lot, and that's the only other thing that's happening."

Mannerud said that she is convinced her store was targeted because of the flights she frequently books to Cuba.

If true, it wouldn't be the first time that someone lashed out at those fostering travel to the communist-run country. When Pope John Paul II visited the island in 1998, even the Archdiocese of Miami received bomb threats. In the late '80s, firebombings frequently targeted those seen as sympathetic to the Castro regime.

The fire in Coral Gables occurred at around 3 a.m. this morning. According to Channel 10, FBI agents were also on the scene to investigate the possible arson.

The apparent attack comes as Florida governor Rick Scott is promising to sign controversial legislation that would ban state and local governments from hiring any company with business ties to Cuba and Syria. Scott will sign the bill on Tuesday, he told Radio Mambi earlier today.

"As we all know, the record of the Castro and Assad governments are undeniably repressive," Scott told radio host Ninoska Pérez Castellón. "I'm going to sign legislation that protects Florida taxpayers from unintentionally supporting dictatorships that commit such despicable acts."

Miami-Dade Republicans had pushed the measure despite objections from the Florida Chamber of Commerce that the law would discourage foreign investment in Florida.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.