Almost 70,000 people have died since ex-President Felipe Calderón launched his country's frontal assault against the drug cartels in 2006. The Mexican military has admitted to raping its own citizens. Human Rights Watch has tied the Mexican military to extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and torture. Why don't more people bring this up when tourists visit Cancún?
Not unlike Cuba, China is a Communist country that stifles dissent, imprisons journalists and otherwise tramples on basic civil liberties. The Chinese government also uses secret arrests and torture to maintain control over Tibet, according to Human Rights Watch. So how come celebrity visits to Shanghai don't raise the same stink as those to Havana?
Plagued by a half-century of civil conflict, the Colombian tourism agency adopted a slogan to entice foreign visitors: "The only risk is wanting to stay." For many Colombians, however, the there's lots of other risks: that you'll end up as one of the country's 3.8 million displaced people, that government soldiers will murder you and dress you up as a rebel to inflate combat statistics, or that government agents will threaten to kill your family because they don't care for the way you report the news. Some 37 members of Congress and five governors have been convicted of having ties to paramilitary groups and another 139 face investigations, making it difficult to draw a clear distinction between organized crime and state violence. Do these issues keep celebrities up at night in the posh hotels of Cartagena?
The Israeli government's long list of human rights abuses against Palestinians includes torture, the use of lethal force to stifle protest, imprisonment of conscientious objectors, forced evictions and home demolitions, and a blockade of 1.6 million people in the Gaza Strip, according to Amnesty International. The Palestinian Authority has also come under fire for abuses, including arbitrary detention and torture, while human rights organizations have criticized Hamas' armed wing for torturing detainees and for extrajudicial killings. The last round of armed conflict between the Israeli government and Hamas left 103 Palestinian civilians and 4 Israeli civilians dead, according to Human Rights Watch. Would Beyoncé and Jay-Z have taken flak for visiting this hotbed of human rights issues?
It bears mentioning that Beyoncé and Jay-Z's home country routinely commits human rights abuses that rarely get mentioned in connection with the U.S. tourist industry. The U.S. military has tortured suspected terrorists and imprisoned them without putting them on trial. Some 166 detainees remain in the U.S. military prison, according to the New York Times. To put the figure in perspective, it's higher than the 90 Cuban political prisoners languishing in jail, according to a January estimate by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights Commission. The U.S. government also bears the brunt of the responsibility for the deaths of some 151,000 Iraqis, routinely kills civilians in drone strikes in foreign countries and imprisons more people than any country in the world. Why would anyone want to allow their hard-earned tourist dollars wind up supporting a government like that?
Opponents of the Castro government were quick to pounce on musical power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z for visiting Cuba for an anniversary trip recently.
In a letter dated April 5 to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which issues the licenses that U.S. citizens need to spend money legally on the island, Cuban-American Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl.) slammed the couple and demanded an explanation:
Cuba’s tourism industry is wholly state-controlled; therefore, U.S. dollars spent on Cuban tourism directly fund the machinery of oppression that brutally represses the Cuban people… The restrictions on tourism travel are commonsense measures meant to prevent U.S. dollars from supporting a murderous regime that opposes U.S. security interests at every turn and which ruthlessly suppresses the most basic liberties of speech, assembly and belief.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) joined the chorus Monday, saying "U.S. law clearly bans tourism to Cuba by American citizens because it provides money to a cruel, repressive and murderous regime."
U.S. citizens can’t legally travel to Cuba just for the sake of tourism. The couple hasn't yet commented on the trip. Though they were celebrating their fifth anniversary in Havana, Reuters reports that they had obtained a license from the Treasury Department for the trip, citing an unnamed source.
President John F. Kennedy first imposed U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba in 1962 as part of a larger economic embargo, in response to Cuba’s growing ties with the Soviet Union. The restrictions have remained in place since then, with tweaks here and there, except for a period from 1977 to 1982, when President Jimmy Carter let the restrictions expire.
These days, proponents of the travel restrictions justify the law based on human rights concerns. And indeed Cuba has a rough record. It has a totalitarian government that routinely uses the police to stifle dissent. The government routinely detains dissidents and has forced dozens into exile in recent years, according to Human Rights Watch.
But it’s clear that the United States holds Cuba to a different human rights standard when it comes to travel.Would the celebrity couple have gotten criticized for visiting these five countries over concerns about their human rights violations? Probably not. Check them out in the slideshow above and let us know what you think in the comments.