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The South Florida Roundup

The death of a top Cuban official, the end of jury selection and Miami might see underground tunnels for commuting in the future

(Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)
Associated Press
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz looks up as one of his lawyers, capital defense attorney Casey Secor, makes an argument in court during jury selection in the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, May 16, 2022. Cruz previously pleaded guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings.

A man who had the Cuban economy on his resume has recently died. The 12 jurors who decided whether Nikolas Cruz gets life in prison or dies have been selected. The city of Miami and other cities have been looking into the potential of underground tunnels to help ease traffic congestion.

One of the most powerful communists in Cuba is dead. General Luis Rodriguez Lopez-Calleja died of a heart attack, according to state media on the island.

Lopez-Calleja managed much of Cuba’s economy. He was the head of GAESA — the military conglomerate that runs dozens of state companies — hotels, gas stations, retail stores, ports, marinas and import companies.

His death is a significant one for the Cuban economy.

“It controls the vital tourism industry in Cuba, which accounts for most of its economic revenue, and because of that control that he had over that conglomerate, he’s also one of Cuba’s top political leaders,” said Tim Padgett, WLRN’s Americas editor.

Padgett said sources told him that he was one of the top five figures in Cuba’s inner power circle, and his death left a big power vacuum in Cuba.

Parkland jury selection ends, trial to begin later in July

Three months ago, jury selection for the trial of Nikolas Cruz began with about 18,00 potential jurors. This week, that was whittled down to 12 jurors - seven men and five women - were sworn in alongside 10 alternates.

The jury will decide whether the Parkland shooter gets a life sentence in prison without parole or the death penalty. The decision must be unanimous for him to receive the death sentence.

The group of jurors selected for the trial are a diverse one, said WLRN’s Gerard Albert III.

“It's a pretty diverse group both in terms of race and age, also occupation. There's a vice president of a bank, there is a Wal-Mart employee, an insurance claim adjuster, a librarian,” he said.

Both the defense and prosecution are looking to convince the jurors of key things to convince them to rule in line with their reasoning. This is where their diverse background and makeup play a role.

“The defense is looking for a single juror who will believe their argument that Cruz's life is one worth saving based on the mitigating factors that they're going to present,” said Weinstein.

For this, the defense may look for who among the jurors have a background dealing with mental health.

In regards to the prosecution, he said they’re going to be looking for people who will agree that the heinous and atrocious act committed by Cruz was pre-meditated, and he thought about it long before.

Opening statements for the trial are slated to be heard July 18.

As South Florida continues building up, is the future of transportation underground?

At least three cities are exploring the idea of tunnels to ease traffic congestion.

Miami city officials see the tunnels as a potential solution moving some commuters below ground and putting them in Teslas. However, administrators say this would only reduce traffic significantly if the system crosses multiple municipalities.

There is a chance the city will have Elon Musk building a “Miami Loop” in the future.

The Miami Herald’s Joey Flechas said right now what the city is envisioning is an underground commute shuttling residents around the city.

“They’ve paid a consultant to produce a study that looks at where they could possibly create stops for up to 29 miles worth of tunnels,” he said.

There are problems that arise with creating tunnels in South Florida. Drilling into groundwater and coarse limestone and sea-level rise are issues that must be addressed, which raises the question: Is this efficient?

Flechas said that waterproofing tunnels, adding emergency access to tunnels and more cost a lot of money and not be worth it in the long run.

Miami officials that Flechas spoke to do want to bring the idea of connecting the hub cities along the coast as a solution to traffic congestion. Flechas said a study was produced on behalf of the city that looked at the areas where people need access to transit and regularly used it.

“They’re looking at airport to downtown, or downtown to Brickell, these really high traffic core areas where you’re going to have a lot of cars piled up at any time of the day, as being potential routes,” he said.

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Natu Tweh is producer of The Florida Roundup and The South Florida Roundup at WLRN.