By Mel Reeves
After stories about the popular entertainment power duo Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s trip to Cuba to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary popped up all over the internet and in just about every major news outlet in the U. S., the Treasury Department confirmed that the couple had been granted a license to travel to the socialist island.
The dynamic duo were well received in Cuba according to news reports. There were reports of long lines of admirers standing outside their Havana hotel to get a glimpse of the couple. The stars took in the sites of Old Havana and even visited with excited school kids.
However, U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtian and Rep Mario Diaz Balart, both representing South Florida, protested the trip and wrote a letter to the Treasury Department inquiring about its legality.
Last Sunday, Senator Marco Rubio criticized the couple as well on CNN’s State of the Union. He said he didn’t think the U.S. government should have allowed the couple to travel to Cuba. He also accused them of helping provide money to the Cuban government through their trip. He further claimed the Cuban government was, “cruel, repressive and murderous,” but didn’t provide any facts to back up his assertion.
“I think Jay-Z needs to get informed,” Rubio said. “One of his heroes is Che Guevara. Che Guevara was a racist.”
Rubio comments flies in the face of the Che Guevara who called out racism in Cuba and the U.S. and encouraged the Cuban government to support the anti-colonial struggles of several African countries in the early 1960’s. In 1964 Guevara, as a representative of Cuba at the United Nations, called out U.S. racism in an address to the delegates “Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of Blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the Black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom?” he said at the time.
The controversy about the trip stems from the fact that the U.S. government imposed an embargo on the tiny island decades ago in response to the Cuban decision to develop a socialist economy, rather than a profit driven one, after their 1959 revolution that overthrew former dictator Fulgencio Batista.
The U.S. attempted to invade the island in 1961, using Cuban émigrés, in the failed attempt known as the Bay of Pigs. So unless one is connected, as this dynamic duo, the only way to visit the island is for journalistic, academic, humanitarian and religious reasons, or for cultural exchange. Tourism that may add dollars to the Cuban economy is forbidden.
Cuba — which is still considered a Third World country — is well known for its education system and its universal healthcare program that allows Cubans free healthcare. Cuba also provides medical training for aspiring doctors free to neighboring Latin and South America countries.
Jay-Z appears to be offended by the questions about their travels and has recorded a song “Open Letter” in response. He raps, “Politicians never did shit for me except lie to me, distort history ..…Want to give me jail time and a fine? Fine, let me commit a real crime.”
Miami-born rapper Pitbull, who is the son of Cuban parents, weighed in to defend the couple by penning his own “Open Letter.” “Politicians love to hate you/But then they run away when it’s time to debate you/Question of the night/Would they have messed with Mr. Carter if he was White?” sung the rapper.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to [email protected]