Beyonce, Jay-Z Cuba trip: Cultural exchange or Propaganda?

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by CBS

KMOV.com

Posted on April 10, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 11 at 9:10 AM

(CBS News)  Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z didn't break the law, but that's not stopping the controversy over their trip to Cuba for their fifth wedding anniversary.

  Some in Congress aren't exactly celebrating the visit, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who says it's being used as propaganda.

  U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said, "I know that it seems like an exotic vacation but behind that facade 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.

  "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," Ros-Lehtinen said.

  During their four-day visit, Beyonce and Jay-Z engaged in activities that appeared to be a 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.

  "There's a great sensitivity in the district that I represent," Ros-Lehtinen said. "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, chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, said, "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 said the Cuban government is using the trip as propaganda. "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."

  On Tuesday, Treasury officials responded to Ros-Lehtinen's letter, saying "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."

  "This trip of Beyonce and Jay-Z is just going to open up the floodgates, and we're just gonna label anything as educational travel, and it's going to mean a lot of money to the regime," Ros-Lehtinen said.

  It's a regime journalist Mirta Ojito escaped during the Mariel boatlift in 1980. She said she hopes that the couple saw what she thinks is the real Cuba -- not just what the government wanted them to see. "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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