The liberal billionaire George Soros’s philanthropy quietly funded a junket last month for five House Democrats to meet with left-wing Latin American leaders in what conservatives have derided as a "socialist sympathy tour."
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Maxwell Frost (D., Fla.), Greg Casar (D., Texas), Nydia Velázquez (D., N.Y.), and Joaquín Castro (D., Texas) traveled to Brazil, Colombia, and Chile last month as part of a trip organized by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-wing think tank. The delegation met with Colombian president Gustavo Petro, Chilean president Gabriel Boric, and advisers to Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to "strengthen diplomatic relations" between the House and Latin American leaders.
Financial disclosures submitted to Congress this week revealed that Soros’s Foundation to Promote Open Society provided a grant to the Center for Economic and Policy Research for the junket. According to Ocasio-Cortez’s disclosure, the organizers spent over $8,000 on transportation, lodging, and meals for her and her partner, Riley Roberts. Six congressional aides accompanied the five House Democrats on the trip. Three members of Soros’s foundation accompanied the delegation at dinners and meetings, according to Frost’s disclosure, which showed the organizers spent $6,600 on his travel, lodging, and meals.
Some conservatives criticized the trip as an attempt by liberal lawmakers to hatch a global progressive movement. Ocasio-Cortez drew criticism after she called on the United States to apologize for "the harms we’ve committed through interventionist and extractive policies" in Latin America. A Wall Street Journal columnist panned the junket as a "socialist sympathy tour," given Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks and the leftist leanings of the foreign hosts.
Lula, Petro, and Boric were elected last year as part of what has been dubbed a "pink wave" of socialist and left-wing leaders in Latin America. Soros, through his Open Society Foundations, supports left-wing civic groups in each of the countries and is a longtime Lula ally. The Brazilian leader met earlier this year with Soros’s son to discuss Open Society’s operations in Brazil.
According to a disclosure submitted by a congressional aide for the recent trip, Soros’s organization funded the junket as part of its "mission to foster greater interest from members of Congress on US-Latin America relations." In Brazil, the delegation met with Lula’s advisers to discuss Brazil’s foreign policy priorities. They met with other government officials and activist groups regarding racial equality, climate change, and issues related to democracy. In Chile, they met with Boric to discuss similar issues, as well as his controversial decree earlier this year to nationalize Chile’s lithium industry.
The liberal Democrats’ visit comes as the Biden administration has soured to some extent on Lula and Petro for embracing American adversaries like China, Russia, and Venezuela. Petro, a former member of a Colombian guerrilla group, has restored ties with Venezuelan dictator Nicholás Maduro and ended participation with the United States on an extradition agreement for narco-terrorists. Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R., Fla.) held a congressional hearing in July on Colombia’s "descent to socialism" under Petro’s rule. Salazar asserted "Petro’s corrupt leftist policies have created a bleak future for Colombia." Petro’s son was charged in July with accepting cash from drug traffickers to fund his lavish lifestyle and to contribute to his father’s presidential campaign.
Lula has also restored relations with Maduro and claimed that allegations about the strongman’s human rights abuses are "narrative construction." He accused the United States in April of "stimulating" the Russia-Ukraine war in remarks that drew praise from the Kremlin. On a trip to China this year, Lula proposed a "peace club" led by Brazil and China to end the war in Ukraine.
Chile’s Boric has come under fire over a history of anti-Israel comments. He supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel and has accused the Israeli government of "genocide" against Palestinians. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) accused Boric of a history of anti-Semitism last year after he refused to accept the diplomatic credentials of Israel’s ambassador to Chile.
Ocasio-Cortez’s participation in the Soros-funded junket is especially eye-catching because of her derisive remarks in the past about billionaires. She has called for the abolition of billionaires, saying their existence is "immoral" and that they only make their wealth "off the backs" of others. Ocasio-Cortez, who drives a Tesla valued at up to $59,000, violated House gift rules by accepting jewelry and designer clothes to wear to the 2021 Met Gala.
Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Update Sept. 7, 4:49 p.m.: This piece has been updated to include information from Ocasio-Cortez's financial disclosure.