‘Who’s visiting next? North Koreans?’ South Florida GOP officials decry Cuban tour of Miami airport security
Marco Rubio raises a warning flag for the Venezuelan elections. Image via AP.

'Every elected official in (Florida) should be outraged by this complete lack of respect to the Cuban exile community.'

Federal, state and local officials from South Florida are lambasting President Joe Biden’s administration for hosting a tour for Cuban delegates of security facilities at Miami International Airport (MIA) this week.

All agree the episode should never have happened. Several said those responsible should face punishment.

“Only under the Biden administration would they allow a terrorist regime into our secure facilities at one of the busiest airports in America. I have asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security why they would be so oblivious,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement.

The condemnation from Rubio and others came less than 24 hours after Diario Las Américas first reported that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) gave representatives of Miguel Díaz-Canel’s Cuban regime access to secure areas at the hub.

The visit was part of an information exchange between the TSA and its Cuban counterparts, the outlet said.

Ricardo Herrero, Executive Director of Cuba Study Group, said there are at least nine daily roundtrip flights between Miami and Havana. He called the tour “standard security protocol,” but acknowledged that holding it Monday on Cuban Independence Day was a “tone deaf” move compounded by not “providing political air cover for local officials bound for the inquisition.”

Others were less charitable in their assessment of the incident.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez, the immediate past Mayor of Miami-Dade County whose responsibilities included MIA, said it represents “another example of where the Biden administration is completely wrong.”

Giménez noted that Cuba is one of four countries listed by the U.S. Department of State as sponsors of terrorism and allowing its officials to see some of MIA’s most sensitive spaces is “putting Americans at risk.”

“Imagine, we are allowing agents of a nation that is a sponsor of state terrorism to … access our most secure areas of TSA,” he said. “That is incredibly dumb.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, Miami-Dade’s most senior member of Congress, said it was “absolutely reckless and dangerous” and emblematic of how “every foreign policy decision by (the Biden) administration seems intent on appeasing our enemies at the cost of undermining U.S. national security interests and putting American lives at risk.”

“We need answers immediately as to who authorized this visit,” he said. “The malevolent Cuban regime has a history of anti-American activities, such as intelligence sharing with U.S. adversaries like the terrorist state of Iran, further highlighting the potential disastrous consequences of the visit.”

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, who, like Giménez, is among the estimated 2 million Cuban Americans living in Florida, called the tour “unacceptable.”

“Florida demands answers,” she added.

The incident comes as the Florida Legislature’s yearslong effort to wrest control of MIA from the county may again be ramping up.

Hialeah Gardens state Sen. Bryan Ávila, who in 2019 successfully sponsored legislation to take over Miami-Dade’s five toll roads, suggested Monday that the county is ill-equipped to enforce security at the airport.

“Did (MIA) executives know that Cuban officials would be observing our airport’s security screening process and allowed access to restricted areas by (the TSA)?” he said. “In either case, it shows a lack of effective oversight and leadership.”

In response to MIA Director Ralph Cutié’s assertion that, as a Cuban American, he was “appalled” by what happened, Ávila said, “If he does not make it his main priority to know what is happening in his airport, how could our community trust him to continue overseeing (it)?”

Cutié’s comments came during a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting at which the panel’s members unanimously approved a resolution by Vice Chair Anthony Rodriguez to condemn the tour and the Biden administration for removing Cuba last week from its list of countries not cooperating fully on counterterrorism.

Hialeah Mayor Esteban “Steve” Bovo, a former state lawmaker and Chair of the County Commission who now leads America’s most populous Cuban American city, said Monday’s tour was an unsurprising “slap in the face to the Cuban exile community.” He took particular exception with Biden and Daniella Levine Cava, who defeated him in 2020 for the county mayoralty, calling the President “an enemy of the Cuban people” and the county Mayor’s response “laughable.”

Early Monday, Mayor Levine Cava said she was “shocked” to learn the TSA invited a Cuban delegation to tour its MIA facilities and had contacted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “to understand how this decision was made.”

“To put it bluntly,” Bovo said, “there is nothing to understand. This decision was an affront to the Cuban people.”

Miami state Rep. Juan Porras agreed.

“It is incomprehensible that the Biden administration and (TSA) allowed members of the Cuban government to visit and tour (MIA) and secure government locations,” he said. “Every elected official in (Florida) should be outraged by this complete lack of respect to the Cuban exile community.”

Emilio González, a former MIA Director and Miami City Manager, said the lack of judgment had him “speechless.”

“TSA heads should roll. No common sense and (a) lack of security awareness,” he said. “Who’s visiting next? North Koreans?”

On a Sunday edition of CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” ex-Cuban intelligence officer Jose Cohen and others detailed how Cuba sells secret information it collects from its spies to “the strongest enemies of the United States.”

TSA spokesperson Mark Howell said his agency has conducted “frequent airport assessments in Cuba as far back as 2003” and began hosting “reciprocal visits” in 2011.

Those visits “continued through the (DonaldTrump administration until today,” they said.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.



    May 21, 2024 at 4:31 pm

    Still waiting to hear a legitimate reason as to why Cuba is on the terrorists list. By that standard the US should be on the list, alongside many of its allies.

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