April 8th, 2013
08:05 PM ET
10 years ago

GOP lawmakers continue to call out Beyoncé and Jay-Z for ‘shameful’ vacation

(CNN) – Beyoncé and Jay-Z are continuing to face heat from Republicans in Washington for their jaunt last week to Cuba, which remains off-limits for Americans looking only for a tropical vacation.

"How nice it would have been if they had said something about freedom and human rights,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told CNN.

She and fellow Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart are calling on the Treasury Department to reveal whether the superstar couple traveled to Cuba legally.

“I'm not saying they should be politicians, but be sensitive to the cruelty of this regime, what they've done to the people of Cuba,” Ros-Lehtinen continued, adding it was “a shame to make it look like an exotic vacation. Shameful."

Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart both represent districts in South Florida, which large populations of Cuban-Americans call home.

On Friday, they sent a letter to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control requesting the agency look into the trip and report back.

In 2012, the Obama administration lifted some restrictions on Cuba travel, instituting a "people-to-people" 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," Treasury guidelines read.

Another Florida Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, castigated Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s trip in a statement Monday, but also took a stance against the administration’s updated policies for travel to Cuba.

“U.S. law clearly bans tourism to Cuba by American citizens because it provides money to a cruel, repressive and murderous regime,” he wrote. “Since their inception, the Obama administration’s ‘people to people’ cultural exchange programs have been abused by tourists who have no interest in the Cuban people’s freedom.”

Rubio demanded the administration “explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba and it should disclose how many more of these trips they have licensed.”

When asked about Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s trip, White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday would only refer questions to the Treasury, which has a standing policy not to discuss individual licenses.

"I cannot comment on a specific case or whether a license was obtained,” Treasury spokesman John Sullivan said.

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.

On Monday, Ros-Lehtinen said there was no excuse for Americans to travel to Cuba for a simple vacation.

“There are many places that are pleasant that you don't feel like you're being a pawn in the game of this Communist tyranny,” she said.

At least one Republican, however, feels differently. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, called on the U.S. government to end its longstanding ban on travel to Cuba.

"Senator Flake believes that the U.S. has pampered the Cuban government for more than fifty years now,” Flake’s spokeswoman, Genevieve Rozansky, said.

“He believes it's time to get tough by allowing Americans to travel freely to the island," she said.

CNN’s Erin McPike and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: Cuba • Marco Rubio
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. T

    .....and in 5 years....this VACA will be commonplace..............

    April 8, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  2. Always Right

    I think there should be a 10 year media ban instated on all Jay-Z and Beyonce related publicity after this stunt.
    I dont know what is worse. Seeing these two repeatedly invited to white house after-parties, or them sneaking out of the country with possibly direct presidential approval.
    We should ALL automatically assume there was a secret deal made by the president to allow this "luncheon" to take place.

    You dont just show up to an airport, and ask for tickets to a restricted country with no direct pollitical affiliation to the united states.


    April 8, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  3. TexDoc

    Time to lift the trade sanctions and travel restrictions to Cuba. We won the cold war partly by sending Coke and Levi's to Russia. Freedom is something we should be sharing with the island, how do we demonstrate freedom by restricting our citizens?

    April 8, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  4. Me Tinks

    Why do americans continue to punish the cuban people. Fidel is not the common. The common are very, very poor. Please help them.

    April 8, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  5. PJ

    This is all these two have to worry about?
    Did they ask the same questions about Clive Owen, Jim Belushi, Jack Nicholson, Naomi Campbell, Michael Douglas,
    Bill Murray, Sean Penn, etc, etc, etc. who have been to Cuba?
    How about our esteemed Senators who seem to go there frequently, but we are not told who they are, or why.
    How obvious can you get? Pay attention to the needs here in America and stop the grandstanding!!!

    April 8, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  6. anonoymous

    If only the gop were concerned about working out all the probelms in Washington instead this......

    April 8, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  7. rs

    Poor Republicans, they are sooooo stuck in the 1950s. Clearly Cuba was better when the mob ran it than the Communists, right? Really people, does it matter where these two vacation? Or, is this your "small government vision" in action, checking where people go on their own time?

    April 8, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  8. SafeJourney

    Get a life GOP, they had permission. Just like other Americans that get permission to travel to Cuba.

    April 8, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  9. alex

    Who cares? Who is controlling all Americans visiting the Island each year? Nobody.

    April 8, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  10. The Elephant in the Room

    Beyonce and Jay-Z are high profile Obama supporters. You can rest assured that this is behind the "birth-certificate-like" tone in the Republican letters to the Treasury Department in which these GOP`ers are grasping for a means to embarass / sully these two people. Several thousand Americans visit Cuba each year, so what gives?

    I have little doubt that every "i" was dotted with their travel paperwork. I just hope these pols are dutifully embarassed by the press when this fact is revealed.

    April 8, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  11. alex

    Plus, they have connections very high in the government.

    April 8, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    THIS IS RIDICULOUS, why should Americans, who are suppose to be free, be restricted by a government from going to one of the safest and beautiful places. As a Canadian who has been there, I'll tell you this, all of what most Americans know about Cuba is purely propaganda, it is nothing as it is portrayed by the U.S.

    April 8, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  13. jo

    THIS IS RIDICULOUS, why should Americans, who are suppose to be free, be restricted by a government from going to one of the safest and beautiful places. As a Canadian who has been there, I'll tell you this, all of what most Americans know about Cuba is purely propaganda, it is nothing as it is portrayed by the U.S.

    April 8, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  14. wmontanye

    Seems it's all Republican that don't have anything better to worry about??

    April 8, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  15. sonnie3

    Well now, lets see, First Rodney King and now these two. Anybody see the common denominator in this situation?
    And they say we are not supposed to profile?

    April 8, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  16. SeñorAzul

    I went to Cúba, legally, in December 2012.

    The republicans didn't question my trip.

    I'm not black or a celebrity...so I guess I am cool to those republicanos.

    April 8, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  17. Michael Lawson

    this is complete stupidness i want to go to cuba yes the regime might not be the nicest but the place is beautiful its like a step back in time i would love for beyonce and jay z to tell these politicians to stay out of there marital life it was a freaking wedding anniversery trip deal with it

    April 8, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  18. JBM

    Wow. I didn't know you couldn't take a vacation there.

    April 8, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  19. Rocky Green

    Where are the GOP terrorists infuriation about wars on a credit card? About 6 trillion and counting. Where is their infuriation about deceptive WMD? Where is the infuriation on tax cuts for the rich that got our economy into this mess? Our great country had a surplus when Clinton left. This is your deficit. I'm a black man who does not totally agree with everything OUR PRESIDENT does, but with hands tied he is doing the best he can. Being from Texas and totally embarrassed by a governor who can't only remember the agencies he wants to get rid of but probably cannot spell them either. I don't see the problem. A problem we exasperated. JS

    April 8, 2013 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  20. bob

    I say arrest the both of them and give them max. jail term. Set an example that rich people can not bend the law. In fact, take there kids away as well.

    April 8, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  21. tina

    What is tihis pick on Jay Z / Beyonce year. Get a life. I don't see them talking about all the jobs going to Commy China or the rich doing business with them. China has a worst civil right record than Cuba

    April 8, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  22. Larry L

    I did some time in Vietnam about ten years ago on a military mission. The people there welcomed us and treated us with respect – they truly appreciated seeing us enjoyiny the hospitality of their country. Although we we killed millions of their people and devastated their land they were able to let it go and look towards the future. Cuba was a puppet of the United States – a place for us to behave badly and a source of cheap goods. It's time we quit listening to the Cuban exiles and get over the whole Cuban-American history. Let it go. Americans and Cubans have a future together. It's history.

    April 8, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  23. Mia

    I guess if you're Cuban, the Republicans come running...but if you're from Mexico, so what.

    April 8, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  24. Stan Kerr

    As a Canadian who has vacationed in Cuba in the past I find it odd US citizens can not travel there and Canadians,Brits and Europeans do on a regular basis.Cuba is a huge tourist area for Canada,Europe and Britan.After 50 years maybe its time the US looks at changing its policies.Cuba is a great country to visit and the people there are very friendly.As a Canadian you feel safer walking in Havana at night than you do in Miami.

    April 8, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  25. Anthony in California

    "Americans continue to call out GOP Lawmakers for ‘shameful’ vacation"

    See how easy that was.

    April 8, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
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