Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has joined the chorus of voices criticizing performers Jay-Z and Beyonce for their recent trip to Havana, arguing the Cuban government has used the trip for “propaganda purposes” and that the White House owes an explanation.
“U.S. law clearly bans tourism to Cuba by American citizens because it provides money to a cruel, repressive and murderous regime,” Rubio said in a statement issued Monday. “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.”
Although Treasury officials have yet to comment publicly on the matter, Reuters reported Monday that the department “fully licensed” the celebrity couple’s trip as a “people-to-people” cultural visit. Citing an unnamed source “familiar with the itinerary,” the news outlet reported that the trip included contact with “Cuban artists and musicians,” and visits to nightclubs but included no meetings with Cuban officials “or typical tourist activity” like beach trips.
Citing “news reports” that claim the trip was licensed by the Treasury Department, Rubio asked for answers from the White House. “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,” he said.
When questioned about the trip Monday afternoon, White House Spokesperson Jay Carney pointed to the Treasury, noting that “decisions at the individual level are made at the Treasury Department, not here.”
Beyonce and Jay-Z were very public supporters of President Obama’s recent re-election campaign, and both attended his inauguration in January where Beyonce performed the national anthem.
Rubio, a first generation Cuban American, has frequently touted his family history in that he is “the son of exiles.” He is not the first Sunshine State Republican to cause a stir of the celebrity hip hop couple’s trip. Fellow Florida lawmakers Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart previously questioned the trip and asked the U.S. Treasury office that licenses Cuban travel to explain “for what purpose and who approved” the travel.