Jay-Z and Beyoncé travels from Cuba to criticism

By Max Miller – Staff writer – nmiller@unca.edu

Pop power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z drew criticism from Conservatives after traveling to Cuba for educational purposes and to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

The United States Treasury Department investigated the trip to determine whether the couple engaged in anti-American acts, like violating the Cuban embargo or teaching President Raúl Castro the secret to nailing the “Single Ladies” dance.
The investigation, demanded by two Floridian senators, is merely a high-profile excuse for Florida Republicans to stir up anti-Cuban sentiments.

The entire incident as a whole reminds us why steps need to be taken to patch up America’s long-standing rocky relations with Cuba.
The embargo, ongoing since 1960, is a sore subject highlighting stubbornness on the parts of both the U.S. and Cuba. It is often criticized for preventing food and medical supplies from being supplied to Cuba in sufficient quantities.

The U.N. passed more than 20 official resolutions against it since 1992, citing interruption of free trade between nations.
U.S. supporters of the embargo note it was designed to coerce Cuba into releasing political prisoners and to prevent American funds from backing the Castro regime, but, as more than a half-century of conflict proved, it only led to a stalemate.

It is necessary for the U.S. to end the embargo, and not just for Beyoncé’s sake. The practice hurts both Cubans and Cuban-Americans, the very groups it purports to protect.

Embargo supporters suggest allowing American tourist dollars to enter the Cuban economy would fuel the government, as much of the upscale Cuban tourism industry is government-sponsored.
But the true victims in this scenario are poor Cubans who can benefit from the influx of spending by visitors, whether they are vacationing doctors or multi-platinum hip-hop moguls.

Some theorists even speculate the embargo supports government negligence because it gives the Cuban government a scapegoat on which it can place its lack of food and medicinal resources.
With trade opened between the two nations, the government could make no excuse for not properly supplying its citizens.
Cuban-Americans would benefit financially as well.
Immigrants in the U.S. who made the move in order to support families in Cuba found American currency sent to Cuba is taxed by the government as part of a retaliation against the embargo.

Furthermore, opening travel between the two nations will allow immigrants to move more freely, splitting up fewer families.
The crux of the entire issue is the U.S.’s paranoia surrounding Raúl Castro and Fidel Castro before him, an attitude that is outdated.
Shortly after succeeding his older brother, Raúl Castro expressed a desire for amicable relations between Cuba and the U.S.

President Obama also appears inclined toward a mutually beneficial relationship, as evidenced by his 2009 reduction of Cuban travel restrictions.
Even most Americans believe change is necessary, according to a 2012 Angus Reid Public Opinion poll, in which more than 60 percent of those polled agreed diplomatic relations should be restored, and more than 50 percent agreed the embargo should be terminated.

Progress is being made, but it has clearly not been enough based on how the investigation of Jay-Z and Beyoncé was pursued.
The controversy was triggered because the couple was perceived as sponsoring the nation through tourism.
The pop stars were permitted to travel to Cuba for educational purposes because they met with students at the Superior Art Institute, but evidence they interacted with locals and spent money at an expensive restaurant, albeit a privately owned one, was enough to warrant the Treasury Department’s wrath.

The educational permit wound up saving the pair from a 10-year stint in jail that would have either been the greatest or worst thing to happen to both of their musical careers and/or a $250,000 fine that would have amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.

Regardless of how events turned out, the incident as a whole proves the U.S.’s relationship with Cuba severely needs attention.
When two of the biggest pop stars in the United States are almost prosecuted for supporting oppression when they were merely engaging in innocent sightseeing and state-approved educational promotion, you fear for the consequences that might befall ordinary citizens, both American and Cuban.

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