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Congress takes aim at Interior Secretary’s daughter's ties to Cuban regime solidarity group

A letter sent by the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee referencing the ties ADN America uncovered in September between a leftist environmental alliance and the Venceremos Brigade, a Cold War-era group created by Fidel Castro and aimed at influencing U.S. public opinion

Haaland works in her office at the U.S. Capitol before being sworn in. In the table a bottle can be seen with a Pueblo Action Alliance sticker
Haaland works in her office at the U.S. Capitol before being sworn in. In the table a bottle can be seen with a Pueblo Action Alliance sticker | Reuters

October 23, 2023 10:42pm

Updated: October 24, 2023 2:26pm

Republican leaders within the House Natural Resources Committee are adding a new twist to their ongoing investigation into Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s daughter’s ties to a leftist environmental coalition known as the Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA), which has openly worked with a Cuban regime fostered organization known as the Venceremos Brigade. ADN first reported the connection on Sept. 19, and it was subsequently confirmed by Fox News Digital on Monday. 

The House investigation was sparked by an Aug. 17 letter from Protect the Public Trust (PPT), a private watchdog group that questioned the secretary’s impartiality after her federal agency implemented a moratorium on Chaco Canyon, New Mexico area oil and gas drilling leases, a longtime goal of the PAA. The PAA frequently engages in pro-environmental advocacy, protests, and lobbying throughout the United States

Shortly after the House opened an inquiry into PPT’s complaint, ADN America published a separate investigation into the PAA’s ties to the Venceremos Brigade (VB), an organization responsible for recruiting Americans to visit Cuba where they are reportedly greeted and groomed by Cuban intelligence agents, ADN learned based on a collection of information published online, social media accounts, news stories and official reports.

The House sent an initial letter to the secretary expressing their concerns about potential ethics violations on June 5, but a second letter was sent on Monday (Oct. 23) referencing the ties ADN America uncovered in September between PAA and the Brigade. The Brigade, which was founded in 1969, peaked as a Cold War-era group created by dictator Fidel Castro, and was aimed at influencing U.S. public opinion. 

During the course of ADN’s investigation, it was revealed that members of PAA, including its CEO Julia Bernal, traveled to Cuba with the Brigade in 2019. 

PAA has also worked with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s daughter, Somah Haaland, who styles herself on social media as the organization’s communications director. 

Once Somah's mother was appointed by the Biden administration as DOI secretary, the PAA successfully petitioned the agency to implement a New Mexico oil and gas drilling ban in the Chaco Canyon area. 

The PAA openly associates with the Brigade, a U.S.-based organization that facilitates trips for young Americans to visit Cuba. 

“PAA's work includes collaborations with (a) the All-African People's Revolutionary Party, a group fighting for the "unification of Africa under an All-African Socialist Government," and (b) the Venceremos Brigade, a group that advocates for policies in "solidarity with the Cuban Revolution" to fight what it describes as American attempts to "overthrow" the Cuban revolution that resulted in communist Cuba,” the letter reads.

“The House of Representatives also noted that “according to the FBI, the intelligence agency of the Cuban government helped establish the Vencermos Brigade to recruit "individuals who are politically oriented and who someday may obtain a position, elective or appointive, somewhere in the U.S. Government, which would provide the Cuban Government with access to political, economic and military intelligence.”

The congressional committee’s letter references that, “the Vencermos Brigade's efforts to cultivate politically-minded Americans continues and, in July 2019, the Venceremos Brigade and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) hosted members of PAA for a trip to Cuba. ICAP is currently led by Fernando Gonzalez Llort, a Cuban spy who served nearly 16 years in American prison for espionage and is an ongoing evangelist for the Communist Party of Cuba.

“Since the July 2019 trip to Cuba, the All-African People's Revolutionary Party, the Venceremos Brigade, and PAA have continued to work together on shared projects and goals, including the creation of a New Mexico-based chapter of the Venceremos Brigade”.

In addition to its partnerships with international-minded socialist organizations, PAA's domestic work includes efforts to restrict domestic energy production in America.

In its original Sept. 19 story, ADN reported that New Mexico is not the only state where Deb Haaland has used Native American cultural preservation as a justification to restrict  natural resource drilling projects. 

A Jan. 29 Wall Street Journal editorial says the interior secretary’s “anti-permitting reform” has left mining projects in Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, and Nevada “stuck in permitting purgatory.” 

Haaland has also obstructed mining in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest and the Duluth Complex, which has one of the world’s largest undeveloped mineral deposits including cobalt, copper and nickel, the key elements needed for EV batteries. 

Restricting the mining of such elements has forced the U.S. to rely on authoritarian nation states such as China and Russia, which currently lead the world in nickel mining and processing. 

“The reality is that if minerals aren’t mined in the U.S., they will be extracted in countries with far less stringent environmental and labor standards. Not that this seems to bother the White House,” the editorial asserts. 

A March 14 report published by independent Cuban news site 14ymedio suggests that Haaland’s restrictions in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest from mining is benefitting the Cuban military dictatorship by forcing the U.S. to turn to Canadian companies that sell minerals extracted from lands unlawfully seized by the Castro regime after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. 

ADN made various attempts to reach Secretary Deb Haaland, Julia Bernal and Somah prior to publishing the Sept. 19 report, but none of the fair comment inquiries were answered. 

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.