Beyoncé and Jay-Z come under fire over trip to Cuba

US treasury department investigating whether couple broke trade embargo on recent trip

American singer Beyonce and her husband rapper Jay-Z leaving their hotel in Havana at the beginning of April. The visit was a cultural trip that was fully licensed by the US treasury department, a source familiar with the trip said. Photograph: Enrique De La Osa/Reuters

American singer Beyonce and her husband rapper Jay-Z leaving their hotel in Havana at the beginning of April. The visit was a cultural trip that was fully licensed by the US treasury department, a source familiar with the trip said. Photograph: Enrique De La Osa/Reuters

Wed, Apr 10, 2013, 06:00


Jay-Z and Beyoncé, the first couple of the US music industry, have come under fire from Republican lawmakers for a three-night trip to Cuba to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary two weeks ago.

Two Cuban-American politicians from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, along with Republican senator Marco Rubio, have queried whether the couple broke the trade embargo against Cuba by visiting the island and have questioned the Obama administration about the trip.


Trade embargo
The US treasury department is investigating whether the couple broke the trade embargo following the receipt of a letter from the two Florida representatives criticising the trip.

However, official sources quoted in US media yesterday said the trip was fully licensed and authorised by the US treasury’s office of foreign assets control, which oversees the visits of US citizens to Cuba.

Saying the Cuban government “seized on” the couple’s trip for “propaganda purposes”, Mr Rubio, a Cuban-American also from Florida, called on the administration to “explain exactly how trips like these comply with US law and regulations governing travel to Cuba and it should disclose how many more of these trips they have licensed”.

Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, was pictured enjoying a Cuban cigar at a government-owned hotel during the couple’s heavily photographed visit.


Funding ‘oppression’
Cuba’s tourism industry is wholly state controlled. Ms Ros-Lehtinen and Mr Diaz-Balart said in their letter to the treasury that this meant US dollars spent on Cuban tourism directly funded “the machinery of oppression that brutally represses the Cuban people”.

The letter should appeal to constituents in Miami opposed to the Castro regime.

Under the US embargo, it is not illegal for citizens to travel to Cuba but it is illegal for them to spend money on the island without a licence from the treasury.