WASHINGTON – US Senator Marco Rubio on Sunday railed against the recent trip to Cuba by pop diva Beyonce and hip-hop star Jay-Z, calling for stricter rules against travel to the communist-run island.
“I won’t rap it, but I’ll say, first of all, I think Jay-Z needs to get informed,” Rubio told ABC News’s “This Week,” saying he wished the performer had met with “people who are being oppressed.”
“The travel policies need to be tightened because they are being abused,” said Rubio, a rising star in the Republican Party whose parents were born in Cuba.
“These are tourist trips, and what they are doing is providing hard currency and funding so that a tyrannical regime can maintain its grip on the island of Cuba,” he said.
Rubio, who is widely seen as a possible 2016 presidential contender, made his remarks as he ran a gauntlet of Sunday talk show appearances to discuss proposals to reform the country’s immigration system.
Beyonce and Jay-Z visited historical landmarks in the heart of Old Havana, snapped pictures and spoke with local residents during a visit earlier this month that coincided with their fifth wedding anniversary.
Their trip angered some members of Congress, including Cuban-American Republican representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, who sent a letter to the Treasury Department criticizing the visit.
Jay-Z fired back, releasing a rap track entitled “Open Letter” in which he said: “Politicians never did shit for me except lie to me then start history. Wanna give me jail time and a fine, fine, let me commit a real crime.”
The Treasury Department meanwhile said the high-profile visit violated no US laws and that as part of a cultural exchange, it did not flout a decades-old economic embargo imposed on the island by the United States.
Asked about the controversy, White House spokesman Jay Carney last week said President Barack Obama had no personal role in approving Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Cuba travel.
“The president did not communicate with Jay-Z over this trip,” Carney told reporters.
Under the embargo established in 1962, US citizens cannot travel to Cuba and spend money on the island, with exceptions made for some family visits and for travel undertaken in the interest of cultural exchange or education.
Rubio said he doubted that the music power couple’s visit met that standard.
“If they wanted to know what was going on in Cuba, they should have met with some of the people suffering there,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union” talk show, “not simply smoke cigars and take a stroll down the street.” (AFP)