April 6th, 2013
04:49 PM ET
2 years 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. korkea aika

    Why are we the only country on earth that can't visit Cuba? In 1957 all of Cuba, including those who live in Miami today, supported and welcomed Fidel to power. Now I can't visit Cuba because they aren't happy with their decision and its outcome.

    April 7, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. Richard Debateur

    Federal law does not apply to the elite.

    April 7, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  3. John/kc

    What is the difference between Cuba and China or North Korea? Ban travel to one, ban travel and trade to the other. Oh thats right, big multi national corporations make money trading with China, so it is ok.

    April 7, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  4. billmelater1

    "Lawmakers ask why Beyoncé and Jay-Z went to Cuba" Because they are now part of the elites which think that they don't have to follow any laws like the little people do.

    April 7, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  5. JenniH

    Maybe she wants to officially be called Queen B????

    April 7, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  6. NitaBReal

    Why is this even news??? CNN is steadily losing my interest! Work on diversifying your staff and bring us newsworthy posts

    April 7, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. robjh1

    Good lord! So many Americans have crossed the water to visit Cuba. This is such a none issue and Congress should be concerned with the sequester.

    April 7, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  8. dnnisjos

    eliana ross and dias-balert get al life pair of complainers, who are you to tell people whrere to go, thiis two are artist, and cuba is full, of them, why not visit there? as salsa musician myself, is my dream to go there, and meet such beutifull, people, you two allways try, to mix your backword, politics, with people, of good will, like Beyonce, and husband, i am celebrating, how about you two, stop wyning.

    April 7, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  9. carrera

    The restrictions are making the Castros' richer and hurt the people. That's why he keeps 20% of the money you send to family. If you visit Cuba you'll see a lot of USA made products for sale. How did they get there?

    April 7, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  10. Serpz

    they went to Cuba. who cares. theyre not joining any terrorist groups. this shouldnt be a big deal, at all.

    April 7, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  11. Seyedibar

    A stupid law is worth breaking.

    April 7, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  12. roger

    They could travel their because both of them are part of the ulliminali

    April 7, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  13. Keepitcoming

    More crap for republicans to get livid about. As if they don't get livid enough already.

    April 7, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  14. cc

    I'm not so much concerned that they went there, I'm more concerned and hopeful that they stay there!

    April 7, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  15. John McAuliff

    Hard to imagine looking at the press accounts that Beyonce and Jay-Z could avoid almost constant people to people engagement.

    The two Congress people would have greater moral standing if they joined Rep. Sam Farr's Dear Colleague letter calling for a general license for all purposeful travel. That way Americans could travel on their own and inject money into the private bed and breakfast and restaurant sector.

    The real issue is that the hard liners are terrified too many Americans will discover Cuba is a complicated, friendly and fast evolving place and that both countries will benefit from normalization of relations.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

    April 7, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  16. John Wayne

    Restriction for thee but not for me.
    He who has the gold makes the rules.
    Get back to work Tax serfs!

    April 7, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  17. Mike

    Who cares? I think the federal government shoul be investigating Dennis Rodman going to North Korea and hanging out with their mentally insane leader. That's more important!

    April 7, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  18. Canuck

    America demonizes Cuba and yet is owned by China. Both communist countries – why the difference?

    April 7, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  19. Thomas

    A ridiculous law made by elite Miami Cubans .

    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen , Mario Diaz-Balart and Marco Rubio of Florida need to stop living in the 60s . Its not good policy , I don't see other latinos complaining . In fact 95 % of Americans think the embargo with Cuba is stupid .

    April 7, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  20. NJ Cuban

    This is crazy. I am the son of Cubans. I have traveled to cuba to visit family and met my wife on the island. They didn nothing wrong and the law needs to change. While Cuba also needs to change it is obious to me that the policy has not worked. The only ones that suffer are the loved ones left on the island. Cuba's government has always blamed the US for all its shortcomings to its population. GET RID of the excuse for them and lets see how that system holds up to americans and the ideas they bring with them. Republicans please go after them.. The law is unconstitutional and i would love to see it challenged in court!

    April 7, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  21. Thomas

    @kathy
    Why doesn't Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart write to the Treasury Department about all the cuban people that are here getting disability and spending that money every single month in Cuba.

    Great point , ask Marco Rubio .

    April 7, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. mcr162

    If Americans want to go to Cuba so be it. If Cuban-Americans have a problem with it "so freaking what". Cuban Americans need to realize that African Americans do not have a problem with Fidel. Before Fidel, their grandfathers and fathers treated black Cubans as second class citizens. They should not expect any help from us.

    April 7, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. Kevin Larson

    Good for them!! When politicians fail at talks and ignore each other for over 40-years, ......well done!! It will take PEOPLE to get people together....not politicians.

    April 7, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. Nnamdi Singletary

    with all due respect on a sensitive topic..a whole investigation because a married couple wanted to visit Cuba on their anniversary?...it's been 60 years and maybe things aren't perfect but I think people want to move on...those that tell me about their trips to Cuba loved it....we can't make things better by preventing people who see the beauty and bigger better picture....Cubans are an amazing people, rich culture...I hear it's an amazingly beautiful island ...I hope to see Cuba some day, I'm sure Beyonce and Jay had a blast

    April 7, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. Anfieldroad

    Over hyped pair of so called entertainers... Little do they know of the plight of the refugees that left that island. Castro, how is that socialism working for you? Cuba's loss of all the excellent minds that came over in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, is this country's gain. Hey, Beyonce and Jay z... Stay over there, you're vastly overrated.

    April 7, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
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