Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Shawn Carter celebrated their fifth anniversary in Havana, Cuba, this week.
And why not? The couple, better known as Beyoncé and Jay-Z — two of the most popular, most recognized entertainers in the world — certainly have the right to celebrate their legalized union wherever they want without undue media or, for that matter, congressional attention.
We hope they learn about the Cuban 5 and in the future join with actors and artists like Danny Glover who speak out for their freedom. These five Cuban men have been unjustly held in U.S. prisons for nearly 15 years because they monitored Florida-based paramilitaries who were planning violent acts against Cuba.
Yet because the couple chose Havana, their trip is being scrutinized by Florida congressional representatives, who get their bread and butter by promoting the 50+-years U.S. blockade of Cuba.
The rest of the world, particularly Latin America and the Caribbean, roundly denounce the blockade every year in an overwhelming vote in the United Nations General Assembly. And Latin American leaders recently told President Barack Obama there would be no more regional meetings that exclude Cuba.
Why the flap about Beyoncé and Jay-Z? Well, according to Washington, U.S. residents are not free to travel to Cuba unless they receive a license from the U.S. government and use a travel agency that has such a license, and unless they keep records of where they go, who they meet, how much money they spend and who goes with them, all to be presented to the U.S. government upon request. Recently relaxed rules make exceptions for relatives of Cuban citizens.
Vacations in Cuba, enjoyed every year by millions from around the world, are specifically prohibited. Some freedom!
The plethora of recent high-priced people-to-people trips by Chambers of Commerce, universities or even progressive licensed groups might make it seem that the U.S. policy has changed. It hasn’t.
Even though Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s trip to Havana may not be politically motivated, in contrast to the recent visit made by basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it has brought more mass exposure to the criminal U.S. policies imposed on Cuba.
We say, end the blockade! Free the Cuban 5!