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Monday, May 27, 2024

Cuban officials visit Wilmington port, Rouzer condemns action

The Port of Wilmington. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy North Carolina State Port Authority)

WILMINGTON — A recent tour of the Port of Wilmington has North Carolina’s 7th congressional district’s Rep. David Rouzer criticizing the move as a national security threat. 

On Wednesday, Rouzer spoke on the House floor about learning last week of the visit that already occurred between officials from Cuba’s border guard and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

“This action flies in the face of the purpose of both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State and makes a mockery of American strength against our adversaries,” Rouzer said. 

According to North Carolina State Ports Authority spokesperson Laura Blair, the authority did not initiate or sponsor the event. 

“[United States Coast Guard] Sector North Carolina requested and coordinated the delegation visit,” Blair said. 

The hosting of the parties was part of a reciprocal visit required by law. 

“The U.S. Coast Guard conducts assessments of foreign ports and provides reciprocity of access to advance [the Department of Homeland Security’s] national security and antiterrorism mission,” a USCG representative said. 

Reciprocal port security visits began during the Obama administration. These events led to the lifting of the Port Security Advisory on Cuba and helped clear the way for ferry and cruise ship services between the United States and Cuba to begin. 

According to USCG, officials visited Cuba and conducted a cyclical port security assessment in January.

The port visits were part of larger efforts to mend the relationship between Cuba and the United States after decades of conflict and isolation. 

However, the Trump administration’s State Department declared Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism in 2021 for “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists.” The announcement stated Cuba fed, housed, and provided medical care for murderers, bombmakers, and hijackers at the expense of its citizens while also harboring several U.S. fugitives. 

This visit was the first since the designation and the first at the Port of Wilmington. 

“There is no reason any nation with a state sponsor of terrorism designation should be hosted by the United States, let alone be allowed to analyze sensitive coastal and maritime security protocols,” Rouzer said in his House floor remarks. “Ironically, the decision to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and the decision to authorize this trip were made by the same agencies.”

The visit was approved by the State Department and the USCG’s overseer, the Department of Homeland Security, who did not return a request for comment on the details of the visit.

In his comments, Rouzer claimed he was told the visits were part of a reciprocal relationship to turn back Cubans fleeing the island country. A source told Port City Daily the USCG claimed canceling the reciprocal visits would have significant negative impacts on counter-migrant operations.

Rouzer is not the only congressperson raising concerns over these visits. Earlier this month, Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio demanded the Biden administration cancel the upcoming scheduled visits. 

“Americans live just 90 miles from the shores of this vile communist dictatorship in league with foreign powers that seek to undermine our country,” Rubio wrote in a letter to the president. “For Floridians, the U.S. Coast Guard is the first line of defense against the threats to our south.”

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at 

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