April 6th, 2013
04:49 PM ET
10 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. @Gpaul50

    "All its done is hurt the Cuban people" who gives a crap about the Cuban people? Worry about your own country or go move to Cuba. Or move to America cause it's such a great country, but make sure to flaunt the flag of the country you fled from your rear view mirror. We're hurting Cuba by not spending money there, like it's our responsibility to take care of them when we have our own financial problems.

    April 8, 2013 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  2. f4xtrafn

    But it's OK to vacation in N. Korea and China and Iran? Ignorant laws deserve no respect.

    April 8, 2013 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  3. Anthony in California

    "Lawmakers ask why Beyoncé and Jay-Z went to Cuba"


    "Americans ask why Lawmakers are failing America"

    April 8, 2013 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  4. Ray

    They just want the attention, and they certainly are getting it.... They can go there , yes...but there are so many other places to go that wouldn't get them the press... wake up!

    April 8, 2013 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  5. Jonathan

    Does anybody realize it's easier to get into North Korea if you're an American, and yet that regime is more murderous and so much less appealing to go to?!

    April 8, 2013 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  6. Thomas

    Why can't we go to Cuba? is the appropriate question!

    April 8, 2013 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  7. Monkey

    How there they exercise their freedom of travel. Who do they think they are? Our forefathers will not have allowed them to travel to any country they choose.

    April 8, 2013 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  8. joy to the world

    Well seems when you have plenty of money you can buy anyone including government officials. When I was in Cuba, being an American citizen, upon my return US customs and immigration gave me all kinds of warnings not to ever go again, even threatned to suspend my passport. Is this what she and her husband would also be facing? Or only certain folks can do what they please. That is the question.

    April 8, 2013 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  9. Jansen

    "not illegal to travel to Cuba when following a strict travel itinerary – So is that how the Guantanamo prisoners were able to go there and then stay for so long in their luxury accommodations?

    April 8, 2013 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  10. Freedom of Speech

    Let me take this one: Umm... For the SAME reasons "EARNEST HEMMINGWAY" lived in CUBA – "JAY-Z" & "BEYONCE" went there because it's a lovely island with a number of fine resorts, especially catering to the rich? There, asked and answered. All I can say is these racist, rightwing, anti-American, Cuban domestic terrorist living is South Florida, better not spend AMERICAN taxpayers money on an "investigation" of REAL AMERICANS like "JAY-Z" and "BEYONCE" – If they do they shod be arrested and put on trial for treason against the United States Of America. – Hope "JAY-Z" is enjoying his CUBAN cigars. – WHY does the media pretend that CUBAN’S living in Florida of all places speaks for Latin American's? They speak for a small minority of extreme, right wing, racist, CUBAN expatriates, that live in South Florida – PERIOD! So come on media enough is enough – STOP pretending these rightwing, extremist speak, or in any way reflects Mexican Americans or Puerto Rican's – The CUBANS in Miami hate other Latino cultures – they even hate the CUBAN'S living in CUBA – The real Cuban's live in Cuba not Florida – The CUBAN'S living in Florida do not reflect the Latin American experience at all – MEXICAN AMERICAN'S remember the Alamo – CUBAN immigrants (at least the ones living in Florida) fondly remember, and love, – Batista, The Mafia, illegal kick backs, slot machines and the Casinos – Most CUBAN immigrants want to be White not Latino. These right-wing Florida Cuban’s need to focus on American issues instead of using their position to personally try to attack the CUBAN people and their Government. We are allowed to travel to China a country that eats Dogs and Cats, and guns down it’s people in Tiananmen Square, China is the biggest communist country out there, so why not CUBA? Way to go BEYONCE, and JAY-Z – Enjoy your CUBAN rum, and bring home some CUBAN cigars...

    April 8, 2013 03:36 am at 3:36 am |
  11. JJ

    Because they CAN!

    April 8, 2013 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  12. craig

    Yes, and apparently it's also illegal for unmarried couples to live together in Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and Virginia. But nowadays, you would think even lawmakers have moved on to more important things, like finding jobs for the unemployed.

    April 8, 2013 04:20 am at 4:20 am |
  13. Zooni

    Russia supplied the Missiles and support to Cuba, but Americans are allowed to visit Russia. China has shot down US planes, but has most favorable trade status. The ban is an extension of hypocrisy and corruption. The freedom to travel was fundamental to the founding fathers and in the Articles of Confederation. What's next American's can only leave their house if they have the correct itinerary and the correct papers.

    April 8, 2013 04:31 am at 4:31 am |
  14. Fsjunkie

    We are all freelance slaves. No matter how much money you have, Massa wants his proper cut down to pennies spent on vacation souvenirs. This is depressing.

    April 8, 2013 04:37 am at 4:37 am |
  15. Sane Person

    Good to see our congress is focusing on the important crap. I mean, first lets tackle that 'vacationing in the wrong place' epidemic, then they'll worry about the economy.

    April 8, 2013 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  16. gustavlover

    Can they stay there? Like forever?

    April 8, 2013 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  17. bare5747

    The law should never have the right to dictate where one can travel too regardless if its a communist country or not.If the goverment doesn't like Cuba then thats the government problem, they should get over it and act like grown ups. Seems to me the goverment wants to control everyones life.

    April 8, 2013 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  18. carl

    know your facts Bacardi rum is made in Puerto Rico not Cuba.

    April 8, 2013 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  19. Jerry

    Traitorous behavior ring a bell?! We are all responsible for what we do, unless you are Black and a celebrity!

    Their fans should not worry. They are but kissing/fund raising friends of Obama. Therefore, NOTHING will happen...

    April 8, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  20. kevin

    “We support the Cuban people by refusing to sustain their jailers.”

    Sort of. I'd assume with no travel restrictions and no sanctions, Cuba would have been more democratic than it is now. Communism failed miserably all by itself with no help from outsiders.

    April 8, 2013 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  21. Don P

    I don't see why we don't just end the embargo and let people visit. With our economy and deficit, the question needs to be asked, "how much money is being used to keep this embargo for no reason"?

    Answer, any president that lifts it won't win Florida in the next election.

    April 8, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  22. goodness

    everybody calm down.....they went for cigars...

    April 8, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  23. Sophia

    Let's face it, the ban on travel to Cuba is Antiquated. The Cuban Government tried to extend the olive branch and had Doctors lined up to come to LA to help out with the Katrina mess. GW (The great white hope of the Republican Party, it seems) slapped that hand away, when he could have. It would have helped build up relations with the two countries.

    April 8, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  24. robert78664

    More dumb socialist Obama lovers

    April 8, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  25. Jcox

    LOL they probably spent euro's knowing American money couldn't be spent. Come on govt you don't think these millionaires are smarter then that!? They pay people to have their back. Its sad that govt also took time to write a report ... killing taxpayers $$

    April 8, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
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