MIAMI – Beyonce and Jay-Z’s trip to Cuba has angered two Cuban-American politicians who are demanding information on whether the couple’s visit to the communist island was licensed.
U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida have written to the U.S. Department of Treasury expressing concern about the trip. In the letter, both said they represent a community that has been “deeply and personally harmed by the Castro regime’s atrocities.”
“The restrictions on tourism travel are commonsense measures meant to prevent U.S. dollars from supporting a murderous regime that opposes U.S. security interests at every turn and which ruthlessly suppresses the most basic liberties of speech, assembly and belief,” the GOP lawmakers wrote.
John Sullivan, a Treasury spokesman in Washington, said he could not comment on specific licenses. He said the agency was working on a response to the letter from Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart.
Beyonce and Jay-Z marked their fifth wedding anniversary in Havana last week. The state-run website CubaSi called it a tourist trip. The artists declined to speak with reporters.
U.S. citizens are not allowed to travel to Cuba for mere tourism, though they can obtain licenses for academic, religious, journalistic or cultural exchange trips. The so-called people-to-people licenses were reinstated under the Obama administration and are designed to help promote civil society and independence from Cuban authorities.
The U.S. government tightened requirements to obtain the licenses last year after Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., criticized the programs as cover-ups for tourism. Rubio derided groups that were granted licenses for activities such as salsa dancing and a trip to the Cuban Ministry of Culture.
The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued new requirements last May that required travel operators to provide detailed information on every aspect of their trip.
On Monday, Rubio tweeted that if Jay-Z really wanted to know what Cuban life is like, he should have visited dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon. Rubio closed his tweet with the hashtag “99problems&dictatorsareone,” a reference to Jay-Z’s song “99 Problems.”
During the R&B power couple’s trip to Cuba, they ate at the renowned, privately run La Guarida restaurant and toured colonial Old Havana. They were followed by bodyguards and fans. Beyonce posed for photos with schoolchildren while Jay-Z puffed on a Cuban cigar.
Not all of the Cuban-American community lambasted their trip. Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban economist and analyst who lectures at the University of Denver, said the trip and subsequent fallout were “a call to take a fresh look at the U.S. policy toward Cuba with the candidness of an adolescent.”
“It is difficult to defend a policy that stomps on the same rights it preaches,” he wrote in a column published in The Huffington Post. “Since the migratory reforms made by Cuba in January, that eliminated most of the restrictions on travel from the totalitarian period, Cubans, under a communist regime have fewer legal impediments to visiting the U.S. than U.S. citizens have to visiting Cuba.”