By JAVIER MANJARRESIt seems as if Jay-Z and Beyonce’s trip to Cuba was legally sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury as an “educational” trip, this according to a report by the Miami Herald.
A Treasury department official released a letter regarding the controversial trip, where he stated, “It is our understanding that the travelers in question travelled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip organized by a group.”
The letter was in response to the ‘protest’ letter sent to the Treasury by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart when the news first broke about the pop couples Cuban excursion.
The letter was directed to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who had asked OFAC, which enforces Cuba sanctions, if the couple had a proper license for their four-day stay in Havana with their mothers plus several aides and bodyguards.
U.S. embargo laws and regulations forbid tourist trips to Cuba but allow some categories such as religious, humanitarian and educational travel — also known as people-to-people travel and perhaps the most controversial of the categories.-Miami Herald
President George W. Bush shut down the category during his term in the White House amid complaints that it was being abused for thinly veiled tourist trips. President Barack Obama restored it as a way of increasing contacts between the two nations.
OFAC requires participants in people-to-people trips to engage in “a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that result in meaningful interaction between the U.S. travelers and individuals in Cuba,” noted the letter, obtained by El Nuevo Herald.
But participants also “may engage in non educational activities off hours,” added the letter, signed by Assistant Treasury Secretary for Legislative Affairs Alastair M. Fitzpayne.
Beyoncé and her husband visited the Superior Institute of the Arts and watched performances by the Modern Dance Troupe and a children’s theater group. But they also strolled around Old Havana’s iconic tourist attractions and celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary with a three-hour dinner at one of the city’s best-known restaurants.Travel industry officials estimate that from 40,000 to 60,000 U.S. citizens and residents visited Cuba last year under people-to-people licenses. Cuban-Americans can travel to the island at will under a family reunification category.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio also objected to the visit to Cuba, questioning the Obama administration on how many other sponsored trips like have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury. Since an itinerary is required to be presented to the Treasury for everyone traveling to Cuba under the guise of “education,” was the tourist and wedding anniversary aspect of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s trip listed on the approved itinerary?