Florida GOP raises security concerns over Cuban officials' tour of secure areas at Miami airport

The five-hour tour was hosted by the United States's Transportation Security Administration and included secured areas like a security checkpoint and a baggage screening area.

Published: May 22, 2024 5:39pm

A coalition of Florida Republican lawmakers on Wednesday raised national security concerns over a group of Cuban officials taking a tour of the Miami-Dade airport that included secured areas.

The five-hour tour, which took place on May 20 which is Cuba's Independence Day, was hosted by the United States's Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It included secured areas like a security checkpoint and a baggage screening area, according to CBS News Miami.

The Republican coalition was led by Florida Rep. Carlos Gimenez, and demanded answers on the tour in a letter to the Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and TSA Administrator David Pekoske.

"You're taking agents of the Cuban Communist Party and showing them the TSA equipment and procedures at Miami International Airport, where there's a community of over a million Cuban exiles, that were exiled due to that same regime. It's a slap in the face of that community," Gimenez told Fox News. "You're also doing it on May 20th. May 20th is the equivalent of July 4th here. So it's Cuban Independence Day, you're doing it in Miami, and you're showing it to who? The agents of the regime that have been oppressing the Cuban people for over 60 years .... You're adding insult upon insult, insult to injury."

The lawmakers, who include Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, noted that it was not the first time Cuban officials toured areas related to U.S. national security. Cuban government officials were also given tours of the Coast Guard headquarters, and port facilities in Wilmington, North Carolina last year.

"Under your watch, Cuban operatives have again accessed sensitive, secure areas within the U.S. transportation system,"  the lawmakers wrote. "Yet again, Congress must step in to prevent your Department and the Biden Administration from hosting individuals from a country which our Department of State has listed as a SSOT [State Sponsors of Terrorism] since 2021."

The State Department said it helps coordinate visits and tours with the TSA in accordance with applicable authorities and procedures. Visits from the Cuban government have been going on since 2011, which still continue now.

"Aviation security is clearly in the national interest," a State Department spokesperson said. "Given Cuba’s proximity and the existence of direct flights to and from our countries, U.S. and Cuban authorities must collaborate while each working to ensure the safety and security of travelers at airports. As we have noted repeatedly, we will engage with the Cuban government when it is in the U.S. national interest to do so."

Democratic officials in Miami, including the Miami mayor, said they were not aware of the TSA tour, and were "shocked" to learn of it.

"The decision to allow Cuban officials to tour secure areas at MIA was made without the knowledge of the Miami-Dade Aviation Dept. and took place on Cuban Independence Day — a day that we reaffirm our commitment to freedom and democracy in Cuba in the face of a brutal dictatorship," Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levine Cava said.

The TSA has maintained that Cuban officials did not see or access sensitive technology or systems, and only viewed equipment that the public can see when screened at TSA checkpoints. 

Misty Severi is an evening news reporter for Just the News. You can follow her on X for more coverage.

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