Republican lawmakers are up in arms over Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s recent vacation to Cuba. Lawmakers from Florida formally requested more info on the couple’s high-profile trip from the U.S. Treasury Department out of concern their tourism dollars might be “supporting a murderous regime.”
“The biggest crime of all is the single stupidest piece of American foreign policy that all presidents, Democrat and Republican, fully embrace: the United States embargo on trade and tourism with Cuba,” msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell argued on Monday’s edition of The Last Word.
A long-standing policy prohibits most Americans from traveling there, unless they receive prior government approval via a special license.
In a formal letter, U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart questioned circumstances surrounding the trip: “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,” they wrote. “We represent a community of many who have been deeply and personally harmed by the Castro regime’s atrocities, including former political prisoners and the families of murdered innocents.” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a prominent member of Florida’s Cuban American community, also complained about the trip.
The couple’s lawyers described the trip as a legal cultural exchange with Cuba. “If their trip was legal, they got very special treatment from the Obama administration–specifically the Treasury Department which authorizes such trips,” said O’Donnell. “They did bring bodyguards with them who would not fit under our government’s definition of who would be allowed to participate in a legal cultural exchange trip to Cuba.” As of now, he continued, “all indications at this stage are that they did not travel with a group that has a license to travel to Cuba.”
He blamed voters in Florida for “controlling” America’s “inane” policy when it comes to Cuba. “We can thank the electoral college for all of this insanity, because Florida is a swing state with a lot of electoral votes and because we know that it can be won or lost by very slight margins, presidential candidates–both Democrat and Republican–pander as desperately as they possibly can to every vote in Florida, including that segment of Cuban-American voters who still believe the embargo is a good thing,” he said.
To O’Donnell, the travel ban has achieved “absolutely nothing.” The Last Word host called on the president to end this “stupid” travel restriction–for everyone. “From this day forward, now that we see that the president’s friends can come and go freely from Cuba, this government has forfeited the moral right to penalize anyone in any way for travel to Cuba, ‘he said. “And for that we should thank Jay-Z and Beyoncé and their mothers and their bodyguards for setting the precedent that we should all be allowed to live by.”
The superstar couple was reportedly celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary on the island.