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. TomGI

    Come on, everyone knows the laws of the nation don't apply to these royals.

    April 7, 2013 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  2. John

    Seriously? American politicians need to end their hypocrisy. They b*tch about the lack of rights that Cubans have. Isn't it stripping Americans of their rights to tell them where they can and can't go and where they can and can't spend their money? What about China? Their human rights record is way worse than Cuba!

    April 7, 2013 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  3. AlexanderE81

    Nothing would soften up the Cuban regime like US tourist dollars. Cuba's tourist industry would explode (no pun intended) especially now that the drug violence in Mexico has scared off many American tourists.

    April 7, 2013 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  4. North Dallas Don

    How about we acknowledge that our 50-year embargo has been a failure and ease restrictions on goods to and from Cuba? And I include tourism. We champion ourselves as being the "Land of the Free" yet we issue restrictions on Americans' travel. It can't be easy holding ourselves as an example to the world when we practice tyranny, even if in marginal doses.

    April 7, 2013 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  5. Will

    Yeah this is just such a silly and sad foreign policy to be practised by the U.S.

    April 7, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  6. Walter Freeman

    It's been over 50 years since the Cuban revolution. Many countries were once our sworn enemies. Most of those countries are now our best buddies. It's all about who gets to profit. The small, aging and dwindling group of now third generation ex-Cubanos should wake up and smell the coffee – er cigars. Oh, and if Dennis Rodman can dribble into N. Korea for his photo op with Kimmy san, anyone is free to go anywhere in my book.

    April 7, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  7. Bill Alexander

    Quit letting Cuban politicians from south Florida dictate what US policy should be about Cuba. The United States should normalize relations with Cuba and abolish all restrictions against the island.

    April 7, 2013 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  8. tom

    i believe what the Obama administration is good in trying to re-establish minimal contact with the cuban people is good. But i also think that we as an american nation should respect our nation and laws and not try to circumvent them. And that is all i have to say. But it is amazing what the get away with until the press get ahold of the story. I look at this way as long as they have our government permission then let them enjoy their fifth annverisary.

    April 7, 2013 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  9. NameSimisola

    the US Govt should foster good relation with the Cuban Govt and not making restrictions against Cuba.

    April 7, 2013 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  10. kekc

    US embargo against Cuba is obsolete and plain stupid. Lifting it is long overdue.

    April 7, 2013 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  11. christian

    yes because Saudi Arabia is the model example of how a country should work. We do not have a 'moral' problem funneling millions to them via "international aid" for their defense, neither do we have a problem working with kings in the Gulf States that are just as bad or worse than Castro.

    April 7, 2013 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  12. LSP

    An acquaintance who happens to be staying at the same hotel said that Vin Diesel was there too...

    April 7, 2013 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  13. ray ray

    Our tax dollars hard at work again , making sure to pay special attention to the "important" stuff....

    April 7, 2013 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  14. jeffdm2

    Hey, lawmakers, let's not do this "holier than thou" routine. The US has often and unashamedly propped up oppressive regimes, and Republicans are probably at least as complicit in this as Democrats, it seems to be largely bipartisan. Consider Egypt under Mubarak and Saudi Arabia for the last half-century. How about Iran under the Shah? As noted above, there's trade with China. George Bush Sr. funded Manuel Noriega, despite knowing him to be a drug trafficker, then prosecuted Noriega for the same.

    April 7, 2013 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  15. dee

    Because they wanted to !

    April 7, 2013 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  16. Bill Peterson

    Members of Congress once again doing the vital work needed by the American people. Or not.

    April 7, 2013 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  17. jeffdm2

    The US has propped up oppressive regimes, so let's not do this "holier than thou" routine, because it doesn't help our credibility. Egypt under Mubarak. Saudi Arabia. Iran under the Shah (and overthrew the previous democracy). George Bush Sr. funded Noriega despite knowing he was a drug trafficker, then invaded Panama to depose Noriega.

    April 7, 2013 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  18. Travis

    American citizens can't take a vacation in Cuba, but we're free to not only vacation, but to lives as expatriates in Saudi Arabia, where women are little more than slaves and any religion other than Islam is forbidden under penalty of death? Maybe if Cuba had oil, things would be different.

    April 7, 2013 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  19. No Common-Sense Found

    You are free to travel to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Russia or even North Korea, but we gotta draw the line when it comes to visiting the neighboring island of Cuba.

    "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..."
    But it's cool if we send billions of tax dollars overseas every year to the same type of regimes.

    " and which ruthlessly suppresses the most basic liberties of speech, assembly, and belief..."
    Boy, this sure sounds a lot like someone else we're all familiar with. (OWS, LGBT rights, etc.)

    April 7, 2013 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  20. neybero

    US policy towards Cuba is an absurd 1960's cold-war leftover that is long past due for change. An ordinary American can travel to communist China, Vietnam, or even North Korea with no restrictions. The U.S. is consistently in the top ten trade partners with Cuba. Over 60% of Cubans receive >US$2.3 billion in remittances (2011), 2/3 of which are from the U.S. There are >80 flights a week from the U.S. to Cuba, most easily available to the 500,000+ cuban-americans each year visiting family there. So why not allow regular American tourists as well? Times are already changing in Cuba which is gradually adopting a Chinese model; if the U.S. wants to influence the future direction of Cuba, it's policies need a long overdue 21st century upgrade; this also includes unrestricted travel for ordinary Americans to visit the "forbidden island." Kudos to Beyonce and Jaz-Z for highlighting outdated and unjust U.S. Cuban travel policies.

    April 7, 2013 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  21. Rogue351

    If we as Americans are free, we should then be able to travel to places like Cuba. We are NOT at war with Cuba. Anyone going to Cuba should no the risks and the American government should not be responsible if they are detained. But restricting freedoms is insane. If am American commits a crime such as conspiring with certain governments and or countries then take appropriate legal action. However if a person just wants to go there to see the country, experience a new place it should not be up to the government to say yes you can or no you cant. Unless it is illegal for you to leave for criminal reasons let people go. Also as long as the receiving country is ok with granting a visa. What is the point of freedom ?

    April 7, 2013 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  22. Aaron Potier

    I think it's time we open up travel and commerce to Cuba. Why are we still sanctioning this country? Ever hear of China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea? These are all commie countries or countries ruled by the non-elected and yet we still open trade and travel with them. Why still Cuba. The Castros are old. The people of Cuba are the ones who suffer not The Castros. They drive cars we discarded 50 years ago. They are probably just getting I love Lucy there. People here have families there they haven't seen in years...decades. It's time

    April 7, 2013 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  23. Sean

    And silly mess like this is why people have no confidence in Congress. - Quit wasting our time & money grandstanding and do your job Congress!

    April 7, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  24. DVZ

    They went there for the exact reason why Kim Kardashian and Kanye West would never go there: To retain their sanity in a country where few would care about them.

    April 7, 2013 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  25. Name

    An Artist dont have frontier so JZ &Byonce represent that spirit

    April 7, 2013 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21