The U.S. Treasury Department office that issued superstar couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z licenses to travel to Cuba has responded to a letter from two members of Congress who demanded to know if the trip involved tourism activities that violated the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
In a letter from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Alastair Fitzpayne responded to the concerns of Florida representatives Illeana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart that Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and husband Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s trip had provided the Cuban government with revenue through tourist activities.
“It is our understanding that the travelers in question [Beyonce and Jay-Z] traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip organized by a group authorized by OFAC to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba,” the OFAC letter read.
“OFAC’s regulations and guidelines require that such trips involve a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that result in meaningful interaction between the U.S. traveler and individuals in Cuba,” it added.
The couple had traveled to Cuba to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary last week, though it isn't clear what educational exchange activities they participated in.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen rejected the OFAC’s explanation in a statement Tuesday evening, describing the trip as “a wedding anniversary vacation that was not even disguised as a cultural program.”
“If the tourist activities undertaken by Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Cuba are classified as an educational exchange trip, then it is clear that the Obama Administration is not serious about denying the Castro regime an economic lifeline that U.S. tourism will extend to it,” she said.
She noted such revenues would only help Raul Castro's administration continue its policy of repressing political dissidents.
“As more human rights activists engage in hunger strikes, I don’t think they will see any evidence of how this scam endeavor will help them become independent of the regime,” she said.
Since 1962, the U.S. has placed Cuba under a full trade embargo, which includes the prohibition of U.S. citizens traveling to the island nation for tourist activities.