Feb 27, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Top House progressives make under-the-radar visit to Cuba

Rep. Ilhan Omar, wearing a blue headscarf, black blazer and black shirt with beaded necklaces, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, wearing a baby blue blazer with white stripes, a white shirt and a turquoise necklace.

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images.

Two leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus made a largely unnoticed trip to Cuba while the House was on recess last week, a spokesperson confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: The visit, first reported by the Miami Herald, has already drawn fire from Republican lawmakers.

What we're hearing: Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the chair and deputy chair of the Progressive Caucus, respectively, were both on the trip, CPC spokesperson Mia Jacobs confirmed to Axios.

  • The two lawmakers met with "people from across Cuban society and government officials to discuss human rights and the U.S.-Cuba bilateral relationship," Jacobs said.
  • Both Jayapal and Omar have publicly criticized the strict, ongoing U.S. economic embargo of the Communist nation.

Zoom out: U.S. lawmakers occasionally travel to Cuba, but those trips typically receive more publicity from the U.S. and Cuban governments.

  • Cuban state media "traditionally highlight American lawmakers going to the island, usually framing their visit as a gesture of 'solidarity' with the Cuban people or support for ending the U.S. embargo," according to the Herald.

The other side: "It's outrageous that Members of Congress would visit a country that jails, abuses, and murders their citizens and supports Iran, Russia and Communist China against our interests," Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) said in a post on X.

  • "Communist Cuba must remain on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism," Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.) said after the news broke.
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