April 6th, 2013
04:49 PM ET
8 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. JOSH

    Normalize relations with Cuba and the government will come down by itself. Government is just keeping the embargo to make happy some politicians with Cuban roots.

    April 6, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  2. gelli

    Good job they can't tell us Canadians where or where not to go for our well earned vacations. I guess we just value our freedoms and rights far too much for that kind of nonsense!

    April 6, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    What makes it right for them to vacation in Cube and not other Americans. If you or I did that we have the Feds asking questions and possible facing legal problems.

    April 6, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  4. InMyHappyPlace

    doug collins I agree. I think we would be welcomed into Cuba by the people. They would benefit financially, Technically, intellectually and in many other ways. Castro's regime could be ousted if the people knew they would not bu subjected to reprisal for free thinking. It would be a win-win for everyone. But it's not going to happen. WE don't forget things like a Cuban Missile Crisis very easily. Wish we could forget it as easily as we have forget Nazis Germany or Pearl Harbor and the Japanese.

    April 6, 2013 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |

    Where were these republican lawmakers when Dennis Rodman went to North Korea. Oh wait......Dennis Rodman wasn't a BIG contributor to the Prez's reelection campaign, So now these 2 republican lawmakers are going to say that because these celebrities visited Cuba they somehow have communities ties and they (the republicans) can finally name PRESIDENT O"BAMA as a communist.

    April 6, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  6. HenryMiller

    Oh, come on...

    The quickest way to de-Communist Cuba is to overrun the place with American tourists.

    April 6, 2013 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  7. Ariel

    ...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...

    And the same community where thounsands of people travel back to Cuba every year. Don't be such demagogues. You can't stop cubans from going back but you keep americans from traveling there!!!

    April 6, 2013 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  8. freedom

    Did Obama send them there? What for? He's been pretty tight with them during his presidency – something's not kosher.

    April 6, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  9. bman

    Cuba is a beautiful country, and we should keep the embargo, so there is one pristine place left on this earth that people with cajones can visit if they have a mind to and are respectful of the people and culture...

    April 6, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  10. Sparrow2

    I wonder if they will be allowed to speak with the opposition and see the REAL CUBA!

    April 6, 2013 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  11. bman

    Cuba is a beautiful country, and we should keep the embargo, so there is at least one pristine place left on this earth that people can visit if they have a mind to, and are respectful of the people and culture...

    April 6, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  12. Science Prevails

    The only question should be, can they stay there?

    April 6, 2013 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  13. Today

    cause they do not know what to do with themselves

    April 6, 2013 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  14. rsmoke2012

    Why don't GOP lawmakers address the more pressing issue of actually compromising and passing a budget? It's easy to deflect attention away from your party, perhaps they are doing it because they are not (the GOP) doing their job. Compromise, pass a budget and help our economy, its what you were actually elected to do.

    April 6, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  15. bearfoot

    these two cuban republicans should wake up to the present!

    April 6, 2013 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  16. Really?

    Who cares? and Does it really matter? So what!

    April 6, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  17. socalpimp

    Jay Z can do whatever he wants..As long as Obama and Holder are running thangs!!

    April 6, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  18. IvotedforObama

    Last time I checked, American Citizens have the FREEDOM to go where they want. You don't want me messing with your "right" to own a gun, then don't mess with my "right" to fly where I want to.

    April 6, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  19. Stacie

    It's enough to make you puke when your government gives China "most favored nation" status but says you can't fly to Cuba. Just gross.

    April 6, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  20. Jonathan

    WOW this is important news. who gives a crap!

    April 7, 2013 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  21. Malachi

    Wow with north Korea talking crazy our focus is on Jay-Z and Beyoncé please people let's stay intellectually stable.

    April 7, 2013 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  22. Rich

    I live in Canada and lots of Canadians travel to Cuba every year (sometimes several times a year) for holidays etc. It's a great place to visit - great people, interesting places, wonderful food and it's CHEAP. Americans can easily travel to Cuba by flying from Canada. The restrictions against traveling to Cuba are outdated and need to be reassessed, I think. We are not helping the people of Cuba by limiting the in-flow of tourism dollars, and they do not look at their leaders as "jailers." The American people have a weird way of looking at Cuba, and it's not their fault - it's years of being fed this ridiculous line by the US government. Go to Cuba. Have a good time.

    April 7, 2013 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  23. p

    Just in case you don't know, as a Canadian traveling to Cuba is very cheap because no Americans visit there. The people are friendly, the weather is nice, the rum is cheap and the cigars are top notch. If you cannot topple a government by sanction for 50 years that means this policy does not work ~ so might as well let people travel there. Why not focus on other isolated regimes that can potentially threaten the US, say North Korea perhaps? It is funny that US attacked Iraq for fake WMD, yet does nothing to NK who has proven WMD and is on its way to produce a rocket to deliver it your backyard.

    April 7, 2013 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  24. Daryl Moistner

    I've been to Cuba a number of times myself. This travel band of its own citizens is so out of touch with the freedom that America likes to espouse...it is so against the Helsinki Accord that the US signed on to, specifically section 13.2, ...It is another one of those American foreign policy blunders that are happening far too frequently these days....and it is a policy so easy to ignore...

    April 7, 2013 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  25. Sommer

    It was their anniversary stupid!

    What is happening with Korea? Could CNN please tell me that?

    April 7, 2013 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
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