Pop diva Beyonce and hip-hop star Jay-Z’s controversial trip to Cuba was part of a cultural exchange and did not violate the economic embargo imposed on the island by the United States, a senior US Treasury official said Tuesday.
Alastair Fitzpayne, the Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, said in a letter to Republican lawmakers who had questioned the trip that the couple’s high-profile visit had not broken any laws.
“It is our understanding that the travelers in question traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip organized by a group authorized by OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to people contact in Cuba,” Fitzpayne said in the letter seen by AFP.
Last week Republican representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida sent a letter to Treasury official Adam Szubin, director of OFAC, requesting information on the type of license Beyonce and Jay-Z received before traveling to Cuba.
“As you know, US law expressly prohibits the licensing of financial transactions for ‘tourist activities’ in Cuba,” the pair wrote.
Images of Beyonce and her husband walking around Havana surrounded by hundreds of fans stoked controversy in the United States.
Under the embargo established against Cuba in 1962, US citizens cannot go to the island and spend money without permission from the government.
Fitzpayne said OFAC “adheres strictly to the requirement in the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 that no licence be issued to travel to Cuba for tourist activities, as defined in the Act.”