The Treasury Department has responded to critics of a recent trip to Cuba by Jay-Z and Beyonce, calling the U.S.-approved travel “educational.”
“It is our understanding that the travelers in question traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip organized by a group authorized by OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba,” Treasury’s Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs Alastair M. Fitzpayne wrote in a letter Tuesday to Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
The two members of Congress wrote a letter to the Treasury Department last week seeking information on “the type of license that Beyonce and Jay-Z received, for what purpose, and who approved such travel.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also weighed in earlier this week, issuing a statement calling on the Obama administration to explain and justify its approval of the trip.
Despite the United States’ official approval of the trip, Ros-Lehtinen issued a statement critical of the travel — and the Obama administration’s approval of it. “If the tourist activities undertaken by Beyonce and Jay-Z in Cuba are classified as an educational exchange trip, then it is clear that the Obama Administration is not serious about denying the Castro regime an economic lifeline that US tourism will extend to it,” she said. “That was a wedding anniversary vacation that was not even disguised as a cultural program. As more human rights activists engage in hunger strikes, I don’t think they will see any evidence of how this scam endeavor will help them become independent of the regime.”
Diaz-Balart also criticized the administration’s decision, calling the Treasury’s response vague. “Cuba remains an island prison for those still struggling for basic freedoms,” he said in a statement. “I urge President Obama to side with the Cuban people and halt any further channeling of U.S. tourism dollars to the their jailers.”
Read the Treasury’s full letter below: