May 22, 2024 - News

"Shocking" Cuban airport tour

A TSA agent at the security area in an airport.

A TSA agent at Miami International Airport in 2011. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Biden administration ignited a political firestorm in Miami after allowing Cuban government officials to tour TSA facilities at Miami International Airport, enraging local leaders who raised security concerns.

Why it matters: Monday's unannounced State Department tour — which local leaders said gave Cuban officials access to secure areas at MIA for five hours — led to a formal rebuke from the county and demands for an apology.

  • The timing of the tour, held on Cuban Independence Day, angered Cuban American leaders in Miami, who make up the largest Cuban diaspora in the U.S.
  • "As a Cuban American and native Miamian, I'm appalled that this took place," MIA director Ralph Cutié said at Tuesday's commission meeting.

Cutié said the federal agencies did not inform him or Democratic Mayor Daniella Levine Cava about the tour.

  • Five Cuban officials with the Communist nation's transportation department were granted access to inspect a TSA checkpoint and baggage screening area at the airport, he said at the meeting.
  • Levine Cava said her office contacted the Department of Homeland Security to get answers and request county involvement in "any future decisions regarding granting access to MIA facilities to foreign government officials."

René Garcia, a Republican county commissioner, called it an "assault on our security."

  • "It's not even about the Cuban issue now. It's about the security of our community, the security of our airport, the security of our nation."

The other side: A TSA spokesperson issued a statement saying the agency "routinely works with all countries with direct flights to the United States."

The latest: The County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to condemn the TSA for the tour and President Joe Biden for removing Cuba from a list of countries the U.S. says are "not cooperating fully" in anti-terrorism efforts.

  • Cuba is considered a state sponsor of terrorism by the federal government, but Biden's move was seen as an effort to improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Elected officials slam administration

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