April 9, 2013 by Nash Riggins
Haters gonna Hate. Only days after celebrity couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé arrived back in the country from their anniversary trip to Cuba, Republican politicians are up in arms.
Congressmen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart – both of Florida – started the drama by sending a letter to the US Treasury Department on Friday, demanding information regarding who approved the couple’s vacation.
“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.”
Why the hissy fit? Under the US government’s long-standing trade embargo against Cuba, most Americans aren’t allowed to visit the island without being granted a license by the Treasury Department. That being said, in recent years the Obama administration has loosened restrictions for some American travellers who’re taking part in religious, academic or cultural programmes. It was on these grounds that the US government did indeed approve Jay-Z and wife Beyoncé’s trip. Cue more trivial displays of outrage.
Senator Marco Rubio – who is already toying with the idea of replacing President Obama in 2016 – joined the group of haters yesterday by demanding to know why Jay-Z got to go to Cuba and he didn’t.
“According to recent news reports, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s Cuba trip, which the regime seized on for propaganda purposes, was fully licensed by the Treasury Department,” Rubio said. “If true, the Obama Administration should explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba and it should disclose how many more of these trips they have licensed.”
“U.S. law clearly bans tourism to Cuba by American citizens because it provides money to a cruel, repressive and murderous regime. Since their inception, the Obama Administration’s ‘people to people’ cultural exchange programs have been abused by tourists who have no interest in the Cuban people’s freedom and either don’t realize or don’t care that they’re essentially funding the regime’s systematic trampling of people’s human rights.”
This isn’t the first time Senator Rubio has kicked up dust over Americans visiting Cuba. Last month, the Senator delivered a seething speech to an interest group in Florida, in which he lambasted those who visited the island.
“Cuba’s not a zoo, where you pay an admission to go in and you get to watch people living in cages, to see how they’re suffering. Cuba’s not a field trip. I don’t take that stuff lightly,” Rubio raged. “You just went to Cuba and to fulfill your curiosity, which I could have told you about if you’d have come seen me for five minutes, you’ve left thousands of dollars in the hands of a government that uses that money to control these people that you feel sorry for.”
Oddly enough, Mr Rubio can’t tell you what Cuba’s really like, as the only place he’s ever been on the island is Guantanamo Bay – but that’s neither here, nor there.
Assuming that Senator Rubio truly is concerned about his countrymen visiting a nation that commits human rights violations – and not just the fact that Jay-Z and Beyoncé get to go on fun and glamorous vacations but he doesn’t – Mr Rubio may want to take a good, hard look in the mirror.
Just a few months ago, the presidential-hopeful decided to follow Barack Obama to Israel for a ‘state visit’, in which he had photo-ops with Israeli political, defense, intelligence and business leaders. That sounds fun to me – but if Americans shouldn’t give money to a government that “tramples on people’s human rights”, Mr Rubio really has some answering to do. After all, according to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli government demolishes people’s homes without notice, harasses non-violent protesters and commits unlawful attacks in Gaza that kill dozens of civilians at a time.
Hmm…oddly enough, Raul Castro hasn’t really made any headlines for doing that lately. But, hey! Human rights violations are in the eye of the beholder, right?
So bravo, Senator Rubio, for trying to distract your government from drafting bipartisan gun legislature because you want to know why the world’s richest rapper and his superstar wife went on vacation to a country that you don’t like. If you really want to be president in 2016, do yourself a favour and put real issues at the forefront of your agenda – not Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s aniversary trip – because most of us have more important things to worry about. As a US Senator, you should, too.