Beyonce, Jay-Z under fire for Cuba visit

Two Republican members of Congress have asked the US Treasury Department for information on what type of licence American pop star Beyonce and rapper husband Jay-Z obtained for a high-profile trip to Cuba to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Beyonce and Jay-Z celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary this week in Havana, where big crowds greeted them as they strolled hand in hand through the Cuban capital.

Havana Waves: Beyonce and husband Jay-Z wave to people from the balcony of their hotel in Havana. Pic/AFP

They ate at some of the city’s best restaurants, danced to Cuban music, walked through historic Old Havana and posed for pictures with admiring Cubans, who recognised them despite the past half-century of ideological conflict that separates the United States and Cuba.

In a letter dated on Friday, US 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 licence that Beyonce and Jay-Z received, for what purpose, and who approved such travel’.

“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.”

The long-standing US trade embargo against Cuba prevents most Americans from travelling to the island without a licence granted by the US government, although US President Barack Obama’s administration has eased restrictions on travel to Cuba for academic, religious or cultural exchanges. The State Department said it had no prior knowledge of the visit.

A spokeswoman at the US Interests Section in Havana said she did not know if the celebrity couple obtained a licence for their trip. If they did not, they could be exposed to a fine. Criminal penalties for violating the regulations could result in up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 (Rs 1.37 crore) in individual fines.

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