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. Anonymous

    I'm sorry, we have sanctions for a reason – to deter a murderous regime from gaining resources to kill their own citizens and Jay-Z and Queen B believe they are above that? Typical Liberal behavior – legislate away a consitutional right to bear arms, but your sanctions against where I should travel don't apply to me.
    How many guns do you think their bodyguards have on them?

    April 7, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  2. S GUNN

    Maybe jay-z should worry about the poor here in the U.S. Like say in Atlantic City where Jay-z HAD an overly expensive night club where want to be punks used to hang out. My be when he visited those clubs he has he thinks that all American live that life style. But the fact is that just a few blocks away from those clubs people live in poverty.

    April 7, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  3. HBAR

    Scuse me. The U.S. spent decades trying to murder the Castros. Even hired the mob to do it. Now we're calling the regime murderous? Look in the mirror!

    April 7, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  4. Bubblebath

    Money got them there! The more obnoxious the better! Maybe Obama pulled some strings.

    April 7, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  5. don in albuquerque

    The big question among most Americans should be "Who gives a rip what these two do?" Asking for an investigation is just another way of saying "But we don't really want to tackle the hard problems so lets do this instead. And we can spend a ton of the stupid taxpayers money doing it. Isn't this great?" It's not like the United States can claim the moral highground on much of anything anymore.

    April 7, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  6. Anonymous

    Anyone can get to cuba, and it's very easy to do. Lots of American's do this every year. LOTS do. You go to Mexico and then get a round trip ticket to Cuba...so why aren't the Republican politicians complaining when others do it too. Makes you think the Repubs truly aren't interested in 'inclusion of all people'....

    April 7, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  7. Freedom

    If your a celeb, work for the government or big donors the laws of our land does not pertain to you under the Obama administration.

    April 7, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  8. OldSchool

    Completely absurd story, the travel restrictions shouldn't exist in the first place...

    April 7, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  9. Jerry in Canada

    My sympathies with American friends, but you are seriously missing out by not going to Cuba. It is a favourite destination for us Canadians, the people are super friendly, and it is a million times safer than for instance Mexico (one of the few good sides about non democratic regimes is zero tolerance on crimes, especially on tourists- no matter where u go in Cuba, no one would bother u). The best part about Cuba- it is one of the few "purely free from Americans" places on earth, and if American are there, they disguise themselves as Canadians. Less Americans (sorry to say this) means less ego, less trouble, less headache, more fun times. Viva la Cuba ! :)

    April 7, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  10. McBob79

    I have to laugh at these entertainer types that somehow think they have some type of influence on culture and politics in foreign countries. The communists used to refer to them as "useful idiots".

    April 7, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  11. yuhmad

    Government needs to stay out of peoples business!!!!!

    April 7, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  12. Rudy

    Beyoncé and Jay-Z just slap america in the face

    April 7, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  13. Deb

    While it is clear that they have broken the law, I'm sure they got some kind of OK from Pres Obama being that they are good friends and all....and I like Obama by the way!!! But I have NEVER understood the ban on visiting a Communist country 90 miles away from our borders but yet we travel, trade and borrow $$ from China who overtook our stand in the world community as very wealthy mostly because of their "most favored nation". Clearly Communist China is more wealthy than the USA and we made them what they are today....But the laws are not broken when US citizens travel to China, a communist country but is it breaking the law when US citizens circumnavigate their way around in order to enter Cuba. It is a true double standard. But while it is "against the law" to travel and stay and put our $$$ into a communist regime, Beyonce and JayZ should be fined or somehow prosecuted. The really think they are above the law in everything they do don't they? And would they be wrong if the President backs them? They are creating a very bad PR situation for the President by going to Cuba!!!

    April 7, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  14. Rudy

    they should live there

    April 7, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  15. Bluejeans in Chicago

    Travel restrictions to Cuba should be lifted. Enough already.

    April 7, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  16. smfinley47

    More importantly, why hasn't the press come up with a one-name moniker for these two along the lines of TomKat, or Bennifer? What IS so special about these two?

    April 7, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  17. Michie

    I am sure those two will have a hard time coming up with the 7500 a piece fine, if it is found that they did spend money in Cuba.

    April 7, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  18. georgek

    Cuba is a beautiful winter destination for many Canadians. With each visit, we take things to give away such as pens and pencils for schools, medical supplies, children's toys, hand tools, toothbrushes, and young women's items. These things are much needed and appreciated. There is no waste there.

    That the USA hasn't recovered from the humiliation of the Bay of Pigs invasion is reprehensible.

    April 7, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  19. Anonymous

    They went there because his $500Million and her $300Million enable them to spit in the face of the U.S. and its policies. There are thousands of U.S. citizens helping protect the interests of the rest of the population, also in Cuba and neither of these two idiots thought about them. They could easily have asked to go visit the troops at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba instead of providing a propaganda opportunity for a corrupted government declared an enemy of the U.S. Too bad so many people have such little awareness of what Castro really did. Money doesn't reflect intelligence, sadly, and these two are low-level thinkers and certainly aren't conscientious. I think they should be detained and not allowed back into the country. They could easily have used their money to come up with a legalized excuse, via ruse or not, to go to Cuba in the first place. Instead, they stuck their noses up to our government, intentionally or not. If fines are paid, they should be in the millions of dollars, to have an impact upon them. Any other U.S. citizen would be punished to some extent if officially caught. The difference is that these two high profile individuals have sheeple following them and admiring them and believing that they do no wrong, unlike most common, not wealthy or famous fellow citizens. They should never be allowed to perform where the American colors are flown, either. They need to be made accountable and not allowed to run rampant doing as they please...

    April 7, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  20. WILLIE

    Americans leave Windsor all the time for Cuba-no cartel problems there

    April 7, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. Name

    That's what money do takes you places you shouldn't go and buy things you shouldn't have, sometimes money make you do sone crazzzzy things

    April 7, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  22. saul

    they may travel as they please

    April 7, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. Freddy-man

    They have behaved badly. They have spit in the faces of those who work hard to follow the rules but, even more so, against those who stand up for all other Americans. Her $300million and his $500million do not allow them to be above the law. They could easily have followed channels and found a ruse or legitimized excuse for their visit. Instead of becoming a propaganda arm of a corrupted government they could instead have visited the thousands of troops in Guantanamo Bay who work hard to maintain freedoms for U.S. citizens and even those of other countries (most people aren't aware that tens of thousands of Haitians and Cubans have fled their countries seeking and obtaining refuge there.) Instead, these two bimbos spit in the face of the U.S. I say the U.S. should spit back, detain them if they attempt to reenter, don't allow re-admission and at a minimum, make them pay heavy fines (in millions of dollars) and ban them from any event where U.S. colors are flown.

    April 7, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  24. stys905

    Because they wanna to goto cuba on vacation like everyone else... I wanna no why they have to be so nosey and controlling... grow up

    April 7, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  25. eholl2

    Like this prohibition has worked so well for the past 60 years. The Cuban-American community just needs to stop supporting this travel restriction nonsense. Using China as an example, closer economic cooperation does more to change a communist regime than anything else.

    April 7, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
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