Republican lawmakers wonder: Why are Beyoncé and Jay-Z vacationing in Cuba?

posted at 2:01 pm on April 7, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

I must admit that I’m not usually one to keep up with celebrities or with trendy vacation fads.  Even if I was more hip, I’d put Havana way down the list of destinations if I had to pick a vacation spot for a relaxing, fun-filled getaway that didn’t involve the shameless exploitation of an oppressed people. That would be especially true if I was well known enough for the Castro regime to use my presence as a propaganda effort.

But hey, I guess I’m pretty unfashionable:

Beyonce and Jay-Z are the latest “tourists” to take advantage of the Obama administration’s eased , an island nation once off-limits to U.S. travelers. But some lawmakers are protesting the changes.

The power music couple was spotted strolling around Havana, the Communist nation’s capital today (Apr. 4). They chose to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary there.

The Obama administration eased travel restrictions, but only in a limited way.  It’s still illegal for US citizens to travel to Cuba solely for tourism; anyone applying to enter Cuba has to get a “cultural exchange” license.  It’s not difficult to see how two cultural/entertainment icons like Jay-Z and Beyoncé would have qualified for that kind of certification — but it’s very difficult to understand why they would have wanted to qualify in the first place.  What’s next, a tour of Pyonyang with Lil’ Kim for Beyoncé’s birthday?

Actually, as CNN reports, it’s not all that easy to qualify for the license, and the requirements don’t exactly resemble the itinerary reported by the media for the power couple:

In 2012 the Obama administration lifted some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba, instituting a “people-to-people” travel program that requires a strict itinerary for vacationers.

“Each traveler must have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba,” U.S. Treasury Department guidelines read.

Americans have been known to get around travel restrictions to Cuba in the past by stopping first in a country with flights to the island. Cuban customs officials are familiar enough with the practice to not stamp American passports when they cross their desks.

Yes, but those Americans are (a) uninteresting to the mass media, and/or (b) smart enough not to court the media on their tour of the prison island.

At least two Republican lawmakers want answers about this “educational exchange”:

Two Republican lawmakers are asking a government agency to look into a recent trip to Cuba by Beyoncé and Jay-Z, suggesting the superstar couple violated restrictions on travel to the communist island.

“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,” Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, both of Florida, wrote in the letter to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Oh, I don’t know if this is so far off the mark.  I’m certainly getting an education in the values of the entertainment industry.  Via Twitchy, some wonder whether Barack Obama is learning a lesson here, too, as well as the two “tourists”:

Lori Ziganto reminds us that the Obamas will have an opportunity to ask this themselves when Beyoncé comes to the White House for Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday party later this year.  Perhaps it’s time for the White House to consider a “cultural exchange” and change the entertainment line-up.

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