Beyonce and Jay-Z's Cuba trip part of growing cultural travel trend
By David Adams
MIAMI (Reuters) - When the U.S. Treasury Department approved a cultural trip to Cuba last week, it had no idea that those traveling included American pop superstar Beyonce and her rapper husband Jay-Z, according to people familiar with the four-day visit.
The trip was handled according to a standard licensing procedure for federally approved "people-to-people" cultural tours to the island, and the power couple received no special treatment, said Academic Arrangements Abroad, the New York-based nonprofit group that organized the trip.
The trip caused a stir because of the high profile of Beyonce and Jay-Z. A longstanding U.S. trade embargo against communist-led Cuba bars most Americans from traveling there without a license from the U.S. government, and specifically prohibits tourism.
Three Cuban American members of Congress, all Republicans from Florida and supporters of a firm stance on Cuba, asked the Treasury Department to look into the licensing of the trip, prompting officials to seek a full accounting of the itinerary and travel documents from the organizers, according to Academic Arrangements Abroad.
U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart said the trip was being used for Cuban government propaganda, while Senator Marco Rubio complained that the travel programs "have been abused by tourists."
If the trip was licensed, the Obama administration "should explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba," he said in a statement on Monday.
INDIVIDUALS NOT SCRUTINIZED
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which administers the sanctions including the granting of licenses for travel to Cuba, does not comment on individual cases. Continued...