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Posted at 05:30 PM ET, 01/04/2012

Congresswoman objects to Smithsonian tours to Cuba

In a blistering press release, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said the Smithsonian was helping what she called “the deplorable Havana tyranny” by sponsoring trips to Cuba.

The objections of Ros-Lehtinen, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, were first reported in Tuesday’s online editions of The Hill.
People carry a Cuban flag during a procession to honor a statue of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba. in Havana last November. (ENRIQUE DE LA OSA - REUTERS)

The Smithsonian has a travel division, Smithsonian Journeys, which does not receive federal funds, and sponsors trips in the U.S. and around the world.

Smithsonian officials said the trips are approved by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department and follow the same guidelines as those sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Dartmouth, Harvard and the American Museum of Natural History.

In her statement, Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American, criticized how the Smithsonian advertised the tours. “The ad fails to mention that Cuba is a state-sponsor of terrorism or that Castro’s thugs repeatedly and routinely beat and harass the innocent Ladies in White while they peacefully march down a street,” she said.

“It is deeply disappointing that the Smithsonian Institute, primarily funded by American taxpayers, is facilitating access to U.S. dollars, which enables the Castro regime to make a hefty profit. The trips not only illustrate a blatant disregard for human rights conditions on the island by an entity that receives U.S. government funding, but provide the deplorable Havana tyranny a sense of legitimacy.”

The Smithsonian, the largest museum and research complex in the world, receives more than 70 percent of its budget from the federal government. In fiscal 2012 it is scheduled to receive approximately $811.5 million. It also oversees a profit-making division, Smithsonian Enterprises. Smithsonian Journeys is part of that operation.

Four trips to Cuba are scheduled for 2012.

By  |  05:30 PM ET, 01/04/2012

 
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