After a surprising amount of questions from Marco Rubio and more politicians spent several days lingering without any real answers, the Treasury Department has come out and said it: Yes, the U.S. government fully, officially approved Beyoncé and Jay-Z's
wedding anniversary "educational exchange" trip to Cuba. But, no, politicians still aren't satisfied that they played by the government rules. "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 [the Office of Foreign Assets Control] to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba," reads the letter from Treasury, obtained by ABC News early Wednesday morning. While Reuters had reported Monday that the trip was OK'd by Treasury, their reporting was based on a single anonymous source, and we're talking about a celebrity vacation in which, yes, two members of Congress had asked for an investigation to be launched.
To be clear, OFAC-approved trips are supposed to be, well, not fun — because you're technically not supposed to be spending lots of money on them, because that money would then go to the Castro regime. National Journal's Elahe Izadi breaks it down:
To travel to Cuba from the U.S., you must get a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and go with a licensed operator. You can’t hit the beach and your trip can’t include any tourist activities. To receive a license, you must meet certain qualifications, such as visiting “close relatives” or conducting journalism, academic research, or certain business activities.
Of course there's the question of whether or not Jay-Z and Beyoncé actually stuck to that plan. Their trip last week coincided with their fifth wedding anniversary. The power couple also, according to Reuters, went to "La Guarida, the city's top privately run restaurant on their first night." and the trip included dining at "some of the city's best privately run restaurants, known as paladares."
That sounds like tourist stuff, right? But according to CNN, "the couple met with a dance group, a children's theater company, an arts institute and a singer, suggesting there was a cultural and educational element to the trip." And, as ABC's Luis Martinez adds, "according to the letter 'travelers pursuing a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities may engage in non-educational activities off-hours.'" (Keep this in mind the next time you want to visit one of Cuba's beaches.)
The Treasury letter did not exactly convince the Cuban-born Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), one of the biggest critics of the trip. She voiced her speculation, and slammed the Obama administration in a statement obtained by CNN:
If the tourist activities undertaken by Beyoncé 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
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.
Meanwhile, in a lush Manhattan penthouse overlooking us unworthy but loyal subjects, Beyoncé is no doubt figuring out the last few lines to her new hit song, but she's having trouble rhyming "Ros-Lehtinen" with "insignificant."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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