Huffpost Politics

Beyoncé, Jay Z Cuba Trip Cleared By Treasury Department

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Celebrity power duo Beyoncé and Jay Z were heavily criticized in April 2013 by pro-Cuban democracy activists and GOP lawmakers over their trip to Cuba that month.

Most Americans who wish to visit Cuba need to obtain a license from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), due to a long-standing trade embargo, and critics questioned the optics and legality of the couple's trip.

Reuters reported at the time, however, that the trip was an official "people-to-people" cultural exchange organized by a New York-based nonprofit group, which obtained approval from the U.S. government through the standard licensing process.

And on Wednesday, the Treasury Department's Office of the Inspector General sent a report to OFAC's director that cleared the couple of any wrongdoing.

The report's conclusion reads as follows:

OFAC is authorized to license travel to Cuba for people-to-people educational exchanges that enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or help promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities. Based on our review of the applicable laws and regulations, OFAC guidelines, the OFAC case file for the non-profit organization including related correspondence between OFAC and the organization, and inquiry of OFAC officials, we believe OFAC’s determination that there was no apparent violation of U.S. sanctions with respect to Jay-Z and Beyoncé's trip to Cuba was reasonable. While we are not making a formal recommendation in this memorandum, we believe that OFAC should document in its files with a summary of the basis for its determinations with respect to this matter.

Florida GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart were incensed when news of the trip first broke, and even sent a letter to OFAC about the matter.

"Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports described the couple's trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda," Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart wrote in the letter.

"We represent a community of many who have been deeply and personally harmed by the Castro regime's atrocities, including former political prisoners and the families of murdered innocents," they added.

When President Barack Obama was asked about the incident last year, he responded by saying that "you know, this is not something the White House was involved with. We've got better things to do."

Obama did loosen restrictions in 2011 for Americans looking to visit Cuba for cultural, educational and religious reasons. There is still debate, however, over whether and how much the Cuba embargo should be eased.

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