A dozen House Democrats, including “Squad” members Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal, quietly traveled to Havana last week to meet with Cuban officials. Their undisclosed trip has sparked outrage from critics who call it “anti-American” and “communist sympathizing.”

Outcry Over Covert Cuba Visit

The House Democrats’ small delegation flew to Cuba without notice amid the border crisis back home. Squad member Omar, Progressive Caucus Chair Jayapal, a Barbara Lee staffer, and others met with Cuban civil society and government leaders.

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Details of the travel only emerged days later through a Progressive Caucus spokesperson. Cuban state media did not report it despite the longstanding U.S. trade embargo. The Miami Herald broke the story after the group had returned.

Lawmaker Lashes Out At ‘Communist Sympathizers

“These are anti-American members of Congress, okay? They are communist sympathizers, and they go to Cuba, which is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but they side with our adversaries,” fumed Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, daughter of a Cuban exile.

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Malliotakis accused the traveling legislators of appeasing and aligning with oppressive regimes in Cuba, China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia. She contrasted their support for fair wages in the U.S. with Cuba’s $15 monthly income: “It’s a farce because every single one of these members voted against the resolution standing with the Cuban people in 2021.”

Embargoed Island’s Rights Record

Cuba has faced sharp criticism for suppressing political dissent and free expression despite recent reforms. “They go under the guise of wanting to do something about human rights,” Malliotakis said. “Do they know that the people in Cuba, including my relatives, earn about $15 a month, $15 a month?”

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Malliotakis also noted the Squad members’ past opposition to a House resolution supporting pro-democracy protests in Cuba in 2021. “The Socialist Squad and Jayapal, they all voted no to stand against the people and with the Cuban regime,” she accused.

Progressives’ Perspective

In response to the backlash, the Congressional Progressive Caucus stated the goal of the trip was to discuss human rights and the complex U.S.-Cuba relationship. The group met with Cuban civil society leaders and government officials during their short visit.

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Supporters argue engaging with Cuba could aid democratic reforms and counter influence from adversaries. Critics counter that the secrecy around the trip suggests an ulterior motive that fails to align with American values or advance rights.

A History of Hostility

Ever since Fidel Castro’s 1959 communist revolution, Cuba and the U.S. have remained bitter ideological rivals. The U.S. embargo banning most trade with Cuba aims to pressure its authoritarian government but has strained relations for decades.

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Some Democrats now back normalization and ties with Cuba after former President Obama’s diplomatic opening. But critics like Malliotakis argue the regime abuses human rights and shelters terrorists and fugitives, making appeasement unacceptable.

Dems Call Trip A ‘Fact-Finding Mission

“This was not a fuzzy, let’s-all-go-to-Cuba-and-sip-mojitos kind of congressional delegation trip,” a source familiar with the visit told NBC News. “They went there on a fact-finding mission, they met with high-level folks there.”

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Officials said the delegation did not violate U.S. law or ethics rules barring taxpayer-funded travel to Cuba. Supporters say learning about the country firsthand could enable smarter policy. But secrecy around the trip plays into accusations of sympathizing with socialism.

Junket Timed Amid Crisis At Home

The timing of the Democrats’ exotic foreign excursion also raised eyebrows, coming amid spiking illegal immigration that has created humanitarian, security, and political turmoil along the southern U.S. border.

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With thousands crossing daily and shelters overwhelmed, critics ask why the progressive legislators chose to jet off to a communist island instead of working to alleviate the situation or visiting the border region itself. The border crisis continues unabated after 16 months and counting.

History Of Unauthorized Trips

This isn’t the first time Omar has made an unauthorized trip that’s landed her in hot water. In 2019, she faced an ethics complaint over a trip to Eritrea. She was also criticized for an Israel trip sponsored by a group that compares Israel to Nazi Germany.

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Now Omar is drawing heat for huddling with the oppressive government in Cuba without disclosing it, even amid humanitarian strife at home. For critics like Malliotakis, such repeated controversies expose Omar and her collaborators as radical leftists out of step with American values.

CPC Defends Mission’s Purpose

While light on details, the Congressional Progressive Caucus stands by the mission to Cuba. “The purpose of the trip was to assess human rights progress under the Diaz-Canel administration as the Cuban people call for greater freedoms,” a spokesperson stated.

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The caucus says it explored avenues to potentially ease U.S.-Cuba relations and bolster people-to-people ties. But with no formal readout on the delegation’s discussions, some observers remain wary about undisclosed dealings with Cuba’s communist government figures behind closed doors.

Conservatives Spotlight ‘Socialist Squad’ Ties

For U.S. conservatives, the controversy represents fresh evidence that so-called “Socialist Squad” members hold dangerously radical anti-American views compared to most lawmakers on Capitol Hill and voters nationwide.

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Figures like Omar and the Progressive Caucus are pushing the Democratic Party more leftward with their stances, they argue. “These are communist sympathizers, and they side with our adversaries,” insisted Rep. Malliotakis. Cuba is just the latest example to the spotlight.

Critics Blast ‘Far-Left Junket

“Ilhan Omar and her squad’s far-left junket to Communist Cuba is utterly appalling,” said one Republican strategist. “These members of Congress are communist sympathizers who’d rather coddle dictators than fix the disaster unfolding right on America’s Southern border.”

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For conservatives, the Cuba voyage seems almost surreal while a humanitarian crisis festers right at home. They accuse Omar and fellow progressives of misplaced priorities that ignore Americans’ urgent needs and democratic values to cozy up to socialism abroad.

Secrecy Raises Suspicions

If the trip aimed to build bridges and ease tensions as described, why the secrecy around it? The lack of transparency makes observers question the real motives. Failing to disclose taxpayer-funded congressional travel to an embargoed country barred to Americans fuels accusations.

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“It’s unconscionable that these members of Congress would go there trying to appease the government of Cuba,” said Malliotakis. Critics demand Omar, Jayapal and others clarify what they hoped to accomplish in their hush-hush Havana huddle out of the public eye.

Fight Over Cuba Policy To Continue

This new skirmish shows how Cuba remains a political flashpoint between U.S. left wing and right wing. Democrats argue engagement encourages reform, while Republicans counter the regime exploits it to bolster repression.

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For now, conservatives remain firmly in control of Cuba policy, keeping sanctions clamped down. But with Democrats like the Progressive Caucus prioritizing more open ties, the debate seems poised to continue as both sides vow to fight for their starkly differing visions.