Superstar couple and prominent Obama supporters Beyoncé and Jay-Z elected to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary last week in Cuba, dining at La Guarida, one of the country’s few privately owned restaurants, and strolling through the streets of Old Havana where they were surrounded by adoring crowds.
Two Republican members of Congress are now inquiring of the U.S. Treasury how the celebrities managed to get there. Reuters reports:
In a letter dated on Friday, U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, asked Adam Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, for “information regarding the type of license that Beyonce and Jay-Z received, for what purpose, and who approved such travel.”
Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart represent districts in south Florida where there is a high Cuban-American population.
“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,” the letter said.
“We represent 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.”
Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart’s letter includes a reminder of the rationale for the law:
These restrictions are in place because the Cuban dictatorship is one of four U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism with one of the world’s most egregious human rights records. Cuba’s tourism industry is wholly state-controlled; therefore, U.S. dollars spent on Cuban tourism directly fund the machinery of oppression that brutally represses the Cuban people.
As the representatives note, the Cuban government has trumpeted the famous pair’s visit in state-run media. Last week, Cuba’s top diplomat in the United States, José Cabañas, complained that too much international press coverage was being devoted to the multi-nation tour of Yoani Sánchez, the dissident Cuban blogger who was recently allowed to leave the country. Cabañas felt that Sánchez was “taking a lot of attention from the most important . . . news that has been happening these days in regards to Cuba. Including the presence of Beyoncé, the singer, who is today in Havana, enjoying a lot of attention from the public, but it’s not covered by the media — incredible.”
UPDATE: Reuters reported this afternoon that the couple’s trip was “fully licensed by the United States Treasury Department,” according to ”a source familiar with the trip.”