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. Chuk

    I agree with you Kevin Larson. It's time to stop trying to "punish Castro" which ends up punishing ordinary people down there. It should be evident now that the country would not bow down before America because of all this political games.

    April 7, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  2. TewksburyBob

    It is time to lift the sanctions. If Americans start vacationing there (and they will) democracy will follow.

    April 7, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  3. Scott from NH

    korkea aika, sure other countries can visit Cuba, Canadians head there by the millions, and when a 19 year old Canadian has a party it's just called a "party" not an "underage drinking party, mother to be arraigned on Monday," and gay people can marry there, and a zumba instructor who charges you for sex has committed no crime (versus the crime of the century). but... sometimes we need to restrict these things, or imprison 1% of our nation, or have the TSA put their hands in our underwear so that we can remain a shining beacon of freedom!

    April 7, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. TK

    we can visit china they imprison/kill thousands, recently americans went to north korea, russia has a long history of killing/imprisoning their citizens, , south africa before the end of apartheid, argentina when they were killing thousands of citizens, i can name others but the point is why cuba as opposed to other countries?

    April 7, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  5. MrInternational

    I have been to Cuba and the only reason the people are in such a poor condition is because of the sanctions the US has imposed. The streets over there are even safer than the streets of Atlanta, philly, chicago, or new york. And the beaches are beautiful. No one should be able to tell you how to spend your honeymoon.

    April 7, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  6. Robin

    Congress is the reason for sequestration and can't do a budget and put two wars on a credit card, Korea is threatening us and they are worry about Bey and Jayz, that's why we have the problems that we have, we cannot mind our business.

    April 7, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. Georges

    The US policy towards Cuba is so stupid that it makes one wonder what goes on in the minds of those who would stick to it. Cuba has survived decades of this embargo. I t probably could survive a few more. It's not the "murderous" regime that is suffering. It's the Cuban people, the American tourists and American investors. We deal with far worse dictators and allow our people to go to their countries without censor. Get a life and try a different approach. And please recind those counter productive restrictions.

    April 7, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. Greg Clapton

    Elitist are flaunting their greed all around the world for now, remember the further that society falls behind the closer we come to revolution.

    April 7, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  9. TruthSpeaker

    The hypocrisy in the policies towards Cuba is ridiculous! China is one of the biggest human rights violating nations in the world but yet we have no embargo against them! just ask the family members of the student protestors that were arrested after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, where their familiy members are now or what happened to them and you will see what a true human rights violating country is capable of! Cuba, a nation that poses no real threat to the U.S is treated far more severly then China, WHY????? Think about that and come up with a viable answer other then they violate human rights, I dare you!

    April 7, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  10. NorCalMojo

    The people to people program seems more Orwellian than an outright ban. Pretty strange.

    It'll change when Florida Cubans decide to let it go and not before. Too many electorals to lose and not much to gain.

    April 7, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. jm0624

    the worst part of the this whole visit is that they didn't stay there. so sick of these people. the less i see or hear of them the better. i mean who really cares what these so called celebrities do every waking minute of the day. there are lots more important social issues going on in this country like our children, and homelessness. the real people that make this world go round.

    April 7, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. fernace

    Are they serious or is this a belated April Fools joke? The GOT-Party talks a good game about "less government," but they seem to mean more Government Intrusion! Why would Republicans care who vacations in Cuba? I have read for years about c-lebs vacationing there! Why concentrate on Jay & Bey? All I can say is they better not spend taxpayers money on an "investigation"!!

    April 7, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  13. Varadero in 3 week

    The best thing about going to Cuba on vacation is that narrow minded Americans can't go there. The USA is more communist than Cuba is.

    April 7, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. MarcusMACV

    As a Vietnam Veteran with over 50,000 fellow soldiers killed by the communist regime in Vietnam I am appalled that our country trades (tennis shoes, catfish, shrimp, etc.)and allows visits to Vietnam yet castigates citizens who visit Cuba. A country with universal health care and a free college education.

    My sisters visited Cuba years ago and realized that, as a black person, 85% of Cubans LOOK LIKE ME! Is that the reason Cuba is punished with sanctions?

    April 7, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  15. ronjayaz

    American diplomacy has been bankrupt since 1776 when they decided on WAR instead of negotiations.

    April 7, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. Varadero in 3 weeks

    TRUTH SPEAKER, why you ask....easy China could kick the USA off the face of the earth if they wanted to. The USA is no longer the dominant super power and have no stomach for a war against a equal or superior foe...

    TruthSpeaker

    The hypocrisy in the policies towards Cuba is ridiculous! China is one of the biggest human rights violating nations in the world but yet we have no embargo against them! just ask the family members of the student protestors that were arrested after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, where their familiy members are now or what happened to them and you will see what a true human rights violating country is capable of! Cuba, a nation that poses no real threat to the U.S is treated far more severly then China, WHY????? Think about that and come up with a viable answer other then they violate human rights, I dare you!

    April 7, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  17. Kwill

    The US telling us where to and where not to vacation, they acting in a Dictatorship themselves. These Cuban congress people need to focus on American issues instead of using their position to personally try to attack the Cuban government. Get over it Castro is not going anywhere until he dies. The people living people are ok. We are allowed to travel to China who is the biggest communist country out there, so why not Cuba?

    April 7, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. Michael

    Let me take this one: Umm.. they went there because its a lovely island with a number of fine resorts, especially catering to the rich? There, asked and answered.

    April 7, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. mochica

    If the critique of Communist countries is that they restrict individual liberties, how are we any better? Did you ever see the Oliver Stone films about Cuba Comandante (2003) and Looking for Fidel (2004)? Probably not, because they were banned in the United States. Do we live in a free and open society as Tea Party Libertarians claim?

    April 7, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. Ruth

    Just proves if you are a hollywood celebrity and if that is not bad enough friends with the annointed one you can get away with it....this is another outrage to this administration,and should be held accountable for it,but ihewill sweep this under the rug just like Benghazi because they are HIS friends,she does a great job of lyp-synching too of our National Anthem.Could not get anyone else to sing?.....keep buying into them and let them make billions and they could probably get away with anything......

    April 7, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. Nahan

    @ Mr. International – Although I will agree with you on the safety, etc., Cuba is not in a dilapidated condition because of US sanctions. The rest of the world trades freely with Cuba. The reason the country is falling apart is because it has no economy. From a man that has traveled to Cuba, you should have made such observations. The number 1 industry is tourism which is highly restricted and regulated. Sugar is no longer king on the island. Furthermore, the only reason Cuba had not fallen apart earlier is because it was a big FU from the Soviet empire, but as soon as the Soviet Union fell, so did the propped up Island. Cuba hasn't been the same since.

    How on earth is Cuba to compete with the rest of the world if the population is sill ignorant with computers, etc? The lessons the kids learn are from the 50s. The doctors, well, they will just cut it off, and manage the infection. It's not rocket science and as soon as the paranoid govt. frees it's people, the island will begin to flourish again. It's truly a shame that this beautiful beacon in the caribbean has not flourished again like so many other former communist regions. But, go ahead Mr. International, blame the sanctions if it makes you feel better.

    April 7, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  22. rob

    no. it's the cigars. What you think Jay-z holding with his camera?

    April 7, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  23. Ruth

    It is true ....people do forget EVIL........

    April 7, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. Jon

    Don't these Repubs have bigger fish to fry? It's all about maintaining electoral advantage with a minoriy of Cuban imigrees from 50 years ago. Our policy towards Cuba has been a miserable failure for decades. It' time we pulll our heads out, give them a good shake, and formulate a policy towards Cuba that will bring about much needed change.

    April 7, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  25. Mike in ATL

    Amazing that only 20 years after the Cold War ended to see so much ignorance. Communism is not tolerable. Beyonce was just acting as a mindless puppet of this regime while the government was oppressing its own people elsewhere on the island. It is amazing to see all of these idiotic comments.

    April 7, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
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