By: Darra Loganzo
There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether Beyonce and Jay-Z’s fifth wedding anniversary trip to Cuba on April 4th was pre-approved by the government. After pictures of the pop icons were released of their casual visits to the Old Havana streets and famous restaurants, it seemed doubtful that their trip was nothing more than a tourist attraction.
Currently, Americans are not allowed to travel to Cuba unless they have a religious or “people-to-people” license, and there is absoultely no tourism allowed with the country. However, news reports have recently discovered that the Treasury Department had reviewed their trip to Cuba and authorized it with a license meant to connect “meaningful contacts” with the Cuban people. They were photographed in the streets of Old Havana and having a meal at a well known restaurant raising questions if their trip was nothing more than a tourist visit and whether they had entered legally.
“It is our understanding that the travelers in question traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip organized by a group authorized by OFAC to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba” Alastair M. Fitzpayne, the Treasury Department’s Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, stated in a letter.
The OFAC organization, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, enforces sanctions against Cuba and supervises the program to grant “people-to-people” licenses to groups that bring Americans to Cuba for “meaningful interaction with the Cuban people.”
The “people-to-people” license program was ended under President George W. Bush but restarted by the Obama administration in 2011. The Obama Administratino has granted over 220 licenses to organizations that are then authorized to bring American citizens to Cuba. Cuban-Americans are allowed re-entry into Cuba as part of a family reunification program.
Licensed groups must provide trip schedules to OFAC showing “a full-time schedule of education exchange activities” for such meaningful interactions. But American visitors can still some fun in Cuba, according to the letter “travelers pursuing a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities may engage in non-educational activities off-hours.”
Despite the license the couple received, on late Tuesday night, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen was not happy with the Treasury Department’s answer, and commented that “That was a wedding anniversary vacation that was not even disguised as a cultural program.” Indeed, the relaxing pictures of Beyonce and Jay-Z definitely insinuate an aura of comfort and leisure, rather than a governemnt-approved conference of important figures for national reasons.