April 6th, 2013
04:49 PM ET
1 year ago

Lawmakers ask why Beyoncé and Jay-Z went to Cuba

(CNN) – Two Republican lawmakers are asking a government agency to look into a recent trip to Cuba by Beyoncé and Jay-Z, suggesting the superstar couple violated restrictions on travel to the communist island.

“Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports described the couple’s trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda,” Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, both of Florida, wrote in the letter to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z were photographed in Havana last week, apparently celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary on the island. While Cuba was a popular getaway for Americans in the 1950s, spending money there was outlawed after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

In 2012 the Obama administration lifted some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba, instituting a “people-to-people” travel program that requires a strict itinerary for vacationers.

"Each traveler must have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba," U.S. Treasury Department guidelines read.

Asked about Beyoncé's and Jay-Z's recent trip, Treasury Department Spokesman John Sullivan said only "I can't comment on specific licenses."

Americans have been known to get around travel restrictions to Cuba in the past by stopping first in a country with flights to the island. Cuban customs officials are familiar enough with the practice to not stamp American passports when they cross their desks.

In their letter the Treasury Department, Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart noted their connection to “a community of many who have been deeply and personally harmed by the Castro regime’s atrocities, including former political prisoners and the families of murdered innocents.”

“The restrictions on tourism travel are common-sense 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,” they wrote. “We support the Cuban people by refusing to sustain their jailers.”

Other lawmakers held different views, such as Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

"So, @Beyonce and Jay-Z @S_C_ are in Cuba? Fine by me. Every American should have the right to travel there," he wrote on Twitter.

– CNN's Peter Hamby contributed to this report.


Filed under: Cuba
soundoff (525 Responses)
  1. Laroye

    Sheer hypocrisy this travel ban. Do you know that in Marina Hemingway, close to Havana, 69% of the boats are private US registred yachts and come to Cuba from Florida for big game fishing or enjoying the island. Cuban police patrols the docks so that nobody takes pictures of the boats...

    April 7, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  2. Name jon rohr

    marriage is pretty educational!

    April 7, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  3. Name

    Great for Beyonze and Jay Z!!! Down with haters Ros Letinan and Diaz Ballart!!! They both Ros and Diaz Ballart support business from communist China, Vietnam ! What is the difference, that they both haters are Cubans and hate Cubans who live in the island!?We have the right to go where we want to.We don't need you both to tell us where to spend our hard earned money!!!

    April 7, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  4. SeñorAzul

    Cuban immigration agents don't even stamp passports on American visitors with OFAC licenses.
    I visited Cúba legally in Dcember 2012.

    April 7, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  5. DickPerry

    LMAO. The land of the free.. The country where its illegal to travel to Cuba. Cuba a place where there aren't any travel bans any more. Guess its Cuba thats the real country of the free..

    April 7, 2013 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  6. Spike

    I don't understand. USA rags out other countries for doing the same thing. Can't have your cake and eat it too.

    April 7, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  7. Smiles, jeers and tears

    This is Cold War logic and needs to end. The U.S. doesn't bar people from going to North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc etc. Just one little island 90 miles away. We should lift the embargo and start trading again.

    The Cold War is over!

    April 7, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  8. Darrin S

    If relations with Cuba were normalized, the Cuban-American community in South Florida would lose its clout. And of course, a la Orwell, having the big-bad US at your door was great for Castro staying in power until he decided to leave.

    Similar problem to why marijuana is illegal – too much money to be made on both sides while it is illegal.

    April 7, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  9. everything in Moderation

    Yes, Wax, you get it. So few do.

    If the Republican party wants government out of the lives of "free" Americans, it has to not (as part of government) get into the lives of free Americans. It's nonsense to say "you're free so long as you travel to places I approve of."

    April 7, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  10. Paul

    Let's not fool ourselves about Cuba....regardless of politics, there are at least 7 regularly scheduled flights to NY and Miami from Cuba just for Americans...brand new planes....there is sooooo much tourism going on...lets not act as if Jay-z and Beyoncé did anything out of the ordinary except being photographed by the national media.

    I've been to Cuba..and sure I did the obligatory cultural exchange, much of the trip was tourism.

    April 7, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  11. Rick McDaniel

    Last I heard, those restrictions had been been relaxed.

    April 7, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  12. Killer

    Who cares where they travel at their own risk using and spending their own money? I don't.

    April 7, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  13. moneytalks

    They went becuase they have a lot of money & some connections in the State Dept or higher (like the president) that got them Visas. When you're a rich celebrity, with influence, you can pretty much do what you want.....

    April 7, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  14. josh p.

    Some democracy we live in,I always tell people what we have is a perceived Democracy,where the Government can make any reason to suppress the citizens,but most id -i0ts never believe me.

    April 7, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  15. Peace

    Jay-Z and Beyonce went to Cuba because they didn't ask money from the Government to go there, and on top of that,
    they have nothing to do with politics.

    April 7, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  16. BytraWatches

    Just the elites in our country doing as they please. Move along people, nothing to see here, move along.

    April 7, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  17. Susan - Canada

    Who has the right to tell you where you can or cannot vacation or spend money...Cuba is a favourite destination for Canadians....Cuba does have beautiful beaches.

    April 7, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  18. Name lynn

    Who cares about where jay z an beyonces goes media needs to talk about important news not no news.

    April 7, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  19. WDRussell

    That travel ban should have been lifted decades ago, Maybe they should investigate republican politicians instead of Americans.

    April 7, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  20. solon

    These congress people should be more concerned about the Republican efforts to suppress voting in this country. It's always easier to see the faults over there than to rectify the evils over here.
    As free people Beyonce and JZ have every right to travel wherever they wish. This country has no right telling it's citizens where they may travel. I applaud Beyonce and JZ.

    April 7, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  21. gracebay1

    I can't wait to see Cuba. The history and art appear amazing. If we can freely travel and spend money in China I don't know why Cuba embargo still stands. The chile community in Florida has too much influence over politics and their numbers do not justify it.

    April 7, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  22. Yas

    Doug....Congressmen haven't "worked" at anything for the past almost 5 years....

    April 7, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  23. La Voz

    This is ridiculous this law has been in effect since what the 1960's hoping that it would make the Cuban government collapse and it obviously hasn't worked so why do these politicians from Miami still feed us this crap. Now is Cuba a communist country and does the government have way too much control over their people? yes absolutely. But as far as making them seem like they are Al-Qaeda and saying they murder people and are a sponsor of terrorism is ludicrous. I have visited Cuba through a third country in the past and know plenty of Cubans and yes I wish they had a democracy but I can't say is any worse than living in China and other countries that have too much control over their people. I have even seen Cubans owning their own businesses now, whether is barbershops, taxis, restaurants etc. It is ridiculous that the land of the free does not let their citizens travel freely.

    April 7, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  24. Amanda

    A better question: Who cares where they go or what they do? Hardly newsworthy...CNN please stop covering lifestyles of the rich and ridiculous

    April 7, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  25. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    And by the way, if the 1962 trade embargo imposed on Cuba was the result of its involvement in the Cuban missile crisis, then why does Russia who was responsible for the Cuban missile crisis have a permanent legislative seat at the United Nations and why aren't there a trade embargo on Russia likewise? So when do we lift the embargo on Cuba? Outrageous.

    April 7, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
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