US singer Beyonce is seen in a balcony of the Saratoga Hotel in Havana next to her husband Jay Z, on April 5, 2013. Pop diva Beyonce and her rapper husband Jay-Z on Thursday created a stir as they toured the streets of Old Havana, with hundreds of Cubans turning out to catch a glimpse of the US power couple. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Last week, megastars Beyonce and Jay-Z sparked controversy over a recent trip to Havana, Cuba, prompting many to question how, exactly, the famed duo received permission to travel there given the U.S.'s tight restrictions on tourism.
Responding to the backlash Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that while his administration has "eased the ability to travel" to Cuba for cultural or artistic purposes, all decisions to grant permission to travel to the Communist country are actually made by the Treasury Department.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) were so interested in learning how the two were allowed to visit Cuba that they sent a letter to the director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department:
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. [...]
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. 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 letter goes on to state that "restrictions on tourism travel are common-sense measures meant to prevent U.S. dollars from supporting a murderous regime that opposes U.S. security interests at every turn and which ruthlessly suppresses the most basic liberties of speech, assembly, and belief."
Nonetheless, news that a celebrity couple has visited a Communist country is likely not surprising given the string of actors, musicians and athletes like Sean Penn, Dennis Rodman and Harry Belefonte, who have openly embraced similar regimes.
(H/T: Washington Free Beacon)