April 12, 2013

Bey and Jay Vaca

A trip to Cuba has some lawmakers demanding an investigation into a celebrity vacation.

Maggie: Pop star Beyoncé and her husband, business mogul Jay-Z, are used to getting attention. But it is their latest vacation that is catching criticism.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: It seems like an exotic vacation but behind that façade there’s a lot of pain and suffering.

Maggie: The couple spent four days in Havana, Cuba last week, the island nation about 90 miles from the coast of Florida.

But the visit had some Florida lawmakers demanding an investigation into their trip, saying the celeb couple may have broken the law. That is because even though Cuba and the U.S. are close geographically, the countries are far from friendly.

After the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, the U.S. imposed an economic embargo on Cuba to try to weaken the Communist government which owns most of the property and business. The embargo does not allow Americans to do business with or spend money in Cuba. And that means not even tourists on vacation. There are some exceptions. And in order to take their trip, officials say Beyoncé and Jay-Z were given what is called a “people-to-people” license from the U.S. Department of Treasury. The license requires that while in Cuba, Americans pursue a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities. During their visit, Beyoncé and Jay-Z toured the old city of Havana, visited a children’s theater and an art school. But not everyone felt their trip met the appropriate conditions.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen: I think this trip of Beyoncé and Jay-Z is just going to open up the floodgates and we’re going to label anything as educational travel and it’s going to mean a lot of money to the regime.

Maggie: On Monday, Representative Ros-Lehtinen sent a letter asking the Treasury Department for details about the celebrity couple’s trip. And Florida Senator Marco Rubio said the visit supports the Cuban government, which is known for cracking down on the freedom of its people and violating human rights.

Jorge Mas Santos chairs the Cuban American National Foundation.

Jorge Mas Santos: What the regime is doing is portraying themselves as open to famous superstar artists at the same time while clamping down against any dissent or freedom of expression.

Maggie: Treasury officials have responded to Ros-Lehtinen’s letter saying, “The travelers in question traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba.”

And the power couple is responding as well. Jay-Z has just released a new song called Open Letter, where he criticizes politicians for distorting history. And hints the White House was on board with his trip. But the White House insists the president had nothing to do with the Cuba visit.

Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.


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