Beyonce, Jay-Z trip to Cuba raises red flags, questions

    10:12 AM, Apr 10, 2013   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CBS) -- Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z didn't break the law, but that's not stopping the controversy over their trip to Cuba. Now, Republican Senator Marco Rubio is criticizing the travel program. He says it's being used as propaganda. Others in Congress are also demanding answers.

    U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida says, "I know that it seems like an exotic vacation but behind that façade there's a lot of pain and suffering."

    Pop star Beyonce and husband Jay-Z traveled to Havana, Cuba last week from Miami. The couple received what's called a "people-to-people" license to travel from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The license requires that while in Cuba Americans pursue a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities. Ros-Lehtinen says, "There are restrictions about people to people contact so that we don't provide an economic lifeline to the Castro regime and I think the lines were really crossed here."

    During their four day visit, Beyonce and Jay-Z engaged in activities that appeared to be part of a cultural exchange including touring the old city of Havana, visiting a children's theater and an art school. On Monday Ros-Lehtinen sent a letter to the Treasury asking for details about the celebrity couple's trip. She says, "There's a great sensitivity in the district that I represent I have people who have been victims themselves of the cruelty of the Castro regime//and the wounds are still pretty fresh."

    Jorge Mas Santos is the chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation. He says, "Cubans cannot go to hotels in Cuba they cannot go to beaches in Cuba they cannot go to the same restaurants that tourists go to."

    Mas Santos says the Cuban government is using the trip as propaganda. He says, "What the regime is doing is portraying itself as open to famous superstar artists at the same time while clamping down against any dissent or freedom of expression."

    Yesterday Treasury officials responded to Ros-Lehtinen's letter: "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." She says, "I think this trip of Beyonce and Jay-Z is just gonna open up the floodgates and we're just gonna label anything as educational travel and it's gonna mean a lot of money to the regime."

    It's a regime journalist Mirta Ojito escaped during the Mariel boatlift in 1980. She says she hopes that the couple saw what she thinks is the real Cuba, not just what the government wanted them to see. She says, "I think if you're a sensitive person you come back somehow changed and I think a little sad to understand that such a beautiful country has been ruined by 54 years of dictatorship."


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