Beyoncé and Jay-Z recently picked an odd locale in which to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. Having the finances and time to travel anywhere in the world their hearts desired, where did the superstar couple decide to vacation? In of all places, Cuba.
The two declined to answer journalists’ questions about their jaunt to the communist country. Perhaps they avoided speaking with reporters because, for the last 51 years, it actually has been illegal for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba as vacationers.
The fact of the matter is if Beyoncé and Jay-Z went to Cuba as tourists, they were in violation of the law, unless they had first obtained a travel license from the U.S. government.
This is where the Obama administration may have played a role in the couple’s excursion. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is the unit that approves travel to Cuba, would have to have issued a special license for Beyoncé and Jay-Z to be able to stroll the streets of Havana.
As of the time of this article’s writing, the Treasury Department had not yet confirmed that such a license had been issued to the couple, despite having been specifically asked about the matter by the press.
Two members of Congress are also inquiring as to whether the Obama administration granted permission to the celebrity couple to travel to Cuba and why it would have done so.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart have sent a letter to Adam Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department. An excerpt, posted on Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s website, reads as follows: “We write to express concern and to request information regarding the highly publicized trip by U.S. musicians Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (Beyoncé) and Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) to Cuba. We would like to respectfully request, within all applicable rules and guidelines, information regarding the type of license that Beyoncé and Jay-Z received, for what purpose, and who approved such travel.”
“As you know, U.S. law expressly prohibits the licensing of financial transactions for ‘tourist activities’ in Cuba (Section 910(b)(1) of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act),” the letter adds.
Frankly, the concern expressed by the legislators displayed restraint, considering that Beyoncé and Jay-Z vacationed in a place where human rights are routinely violated.
After coming to power in 1959, Fidel Castro's government built a terribly efficient system of repression. Cuban law imposes severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and the press. The government represses religious freedom as well, maintaining tight controls on religious institutions, affiliated groups, and individual adherents.
The government utilizes forced labor camps and has implemented a political form of psychiatry, both of which are used to punish those who disagree with the aims of the Cuban regime.
If Beyoncé and Jay-Z had grown up in Cuba, they would not have been able to freely record and perform the kind of music that brought them such career success, without the risk of censorship. The Cuban constitution allows “free” speech only if it happens to be “in keeping with the objectives of socialist society.”
Additionally, artistic creation is permissible for Cuban residents only “as long as its content is not contrary to the revolution.”
The power couple would also have discovered that their assets were not their own in a country where private property rights are essentially nonexistent.
Cuban fans of musical artists such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z are unable to attend U.S. concerts because almost all travel and emigration is illegal. Cuban citizens are unable to leave or return to Cuba without first obtaining official permission, which is almost never granted. Unauthorized travel may ultimately result in criminal prosecution.
Things have not changed much in Cuba since Fidel handed control over to his brother Raúl. Human Rights Watch, an organization dedicated to protecting human rights, reported, “Raúl Castro has kept Cuba’s repressive machinery firmly in place . . . since being handed power by his brother Fidel Castro.”
Mauricio Claver-Carone, who is the Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Advocates in Washington, D.C., commented on the Beyoncé-Jay-Z trip, telling TMZ, “There are women getting beaten on a daily basis, women who are being jailed for no reason . . . people are fighting for their freedom.”
Also displaying apparent restraint in his phrasing, Claver-Carone characterized the celebrity couple’s choice of vacation destination as “extremely insensitive.”
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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