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Kardashians' Havana visit is part of 'a cruel trick on the Cuban people,' congresswoman says

Havana has gone Hollywood, and not everyone is thrilled.

"Both the Karl Lagerfeld Chanel fashion show and Kardashian trip to Cuba for their TV show is emblematic of celebrity culture at its worst," Rep. Ileana  Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told The Times on Thursday in an exclusive statement.

See, a cluster of Kardashians turned Cuba into Kuba this week, posting glamorous photos and giddy comments on social media Wednesday about the island nation, which had been off-limits to Americans for decades and now will likely appear in an episode of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

And Tuesday, Lagerfeld took over the Prado, a main colonial-era boulevard in Havana, and turned it into a glitzy runway to show his 2016 cruise collection for Chanel.

"I know it might be a high bar to ask famous folks to draw attention to human rights abuses by the Castro regime," said Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba and joined the House of Representatives in 1989, "but playing a role in making Cuba a fun, no-worries destination is nothing but a cruel trick on the Cuban people. The Kardashians are taking lots of selfies in Havana, but are they taking stock of the reality on the streets they walk on?"

There are ties between Lagerfeld and the Kardashian-Jenner clan: Kendall Jenner, who was not on the trip, recently posed in Chanel for V magazine and has walked the runway for the designer. Lagerfeld has appeared in Kim Kardashian's mobile game, lunched with Kanye West and photographed Kim while she was pregnant. Kimye's daughter, North West, made her modeling debut in Chanel.

Khloe Kardashian's Cuban reality included smoking cigars at the Havana Club Museum of Rum with friend Malika Haqq and sisters Kourtney and Kim and striking a high-fashion pose in front of a wall boldly etched with Fidel Castro's name.

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Lagerfeld's show, which counted Vin Diesel, Gisele Bundchen and Tilda Swinton among its guests, included an after-party in Havana's Cathedral Plaza, which the Associated Press said had a beach-party theme, complete with a giant tiki-style lounge, a dance floor, cocktails and passed hors d'oeuvres, plus a short private concert by French-Cuban duo Ibeyi.

"We couldn't see anything," Mabel Fernandez of Havana told the AP on Wednesday morning. "It wasn't right. My daughter was dying to see it."

Fernandez had been excited Tuesday afternoon as she waited on the Prado with her 14-year-old to see something they'd "never seen in Cuba," but they and others wound up being herded off by hundreds of state security officers until they were behind police lines blocks away by the time the show started.

Khloe was still excited about Cuba on Wednesday night, however. "I can't wait to get back home and start with my Spanish tutor!," she tweeted. "Just a beginner but I'm on my way! Here's hoping!"

Ros-Lehtinen, meanwhile, had something else to say, telling People magazine, "Haven't the Cuban people suffered enough?"

Follow Christie D'Zurilla on Twitter @theCDZ

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