“Yo, why won't you let me be great?”
Kanye West fired off this highly quotable response to his haters a few years back, and now, the same can be said by Ye’s Watch the Throne partner-in-rhyme, Jay-Z.
Two Republican lawmakers from Florida are in a tizzy over Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s trip to Havana, Cuba, to celebrate their five-year marriage anniversary, claiming the vacation violated travel restrictions to the communist country.
“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. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of Florida, wrote in a letter to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Details of the trip have been scarce. Several photos of music’s first couple strolling around Havana were released, showing them looking relaxed—with Beyoncé in print dresses sporting her hair up in braids, and Jay-Z rocking a white fedora and puffing on a Cohiba cigar. According to People, the couple was mobbed by fans on Wednesday at La Guarida, a popular Havana restaurant, and police had to be called to regulate the crowd. Sylvia Fernandez, a waitress at the eatery, told the magazine that the two stars dined with their mothers and another unidentifiable male, and said Beyoncé looked “beautiful, without a drop of makeup.”
The U.S., meanwhile, restricts many forms of travel to Cuba. The Cuban Assets Control Regulations, administered by the Department of the Treasure Office of Foreign Assets Control, prohibits all U.S. citizens from “dealing in property in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest,” according to their guidelines, and “Specific licenses may not be granted when the purpose of travel to Cuba is to engage in tourism or in prohibited business.” However, the OFAC does regularly grant travel access to Cuba if the trip falls under “humanitarian efforts” or involves “people-to-people” contact—not with Cuban govt. officials—meant to strengthen ties between the two nations, according to the guidelines. Furthermore, travelers must provide an itinerary detailing their activities that result in “meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.”
State-run website CubaSi has called their sojourn a “tourist trip,” reports Fox News, although it’s fairly safe to say that the couple’s trip involved plenty of “people-to-people” contact with their hordes of fans, which no doubt helped relations between the U.S. and Cuba. While you can’t fly directly from the U.S. to Cuba, there are standard and chartered flights available to Cuba from Canada, Europe, and South America, for American travelers. And hell, many travel sites these days even sell OFAC-licensed vacation packages to Cuba for U.S. citizens for the aforementioned “people-to-people” programs.
“The 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,” the two Republican lawmakers wrote. “We support the Cuban people by refusing to sustain their jailers.”
It’s quite bizarre that these Republican lawmakers have decided to target Jay-Z and Beyoncé’, two outspoken supporters of President Obama. After all, several stars have visited the country in the past. A few years ago, four movie stars—Benicio Del Toro, Bill Murray, Robert Duvall, and James Caan—visited Havana on a “research project,” reported Reuters. Their lil’ getaway was licensed by the OFAC, and Republicans were loath to criticize it.