Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z
February 15, 2013: Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z, Shawn Carter attending Ball So Hard 2 All Star Weekend presented by Crown Royal Black & Ciroc in Houston, Texas. Mandatory Credit:


I never thought I’d mention Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and geopolitics in the same sentence. But the superstar couple is causing quite a stir by celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary in Havana, Cuba — a country that has been completely off-limits to American vacationers for more than fifty years due to that Cold War relic, the embargo.

Last week, Mauricio Claver-Carone, Director for the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, blasted the couple’s trip as “insulting,” saying they were “clueless about the tortures happening in Cuba.”  And Cuban American U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart have written a letter to the Department of Treasury requesting answers as to how the Carters’ trip was authorized. But after spending the appropriate amount of time admiring Beyoncé’s outfit and Jay-Z’s ability to look cooly detached as he undoubtedly crafts a witty punchline in his head about private flights, Brooklyn mornings and Havana nights, all I wondered was why I too couldn’t stroll the streets of Havana as effortlessly as they are.  Rather, why is the United States holding on to the embargo against Cuba, a policy that Secretary of State John Kerry said “has manifestly failed” for more than half a century?

The U.S. embargo was put in place by John F. Kennedy in 1962 following the Cuban Revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.  It was reinforced in 1992 under President Bill Clinton to force Cuba to move toward “democratization and greater respect for human rights.” In the past five decades, however, the embargo has yet to be successful on that front, as Cuba is still a Communist country.

Granted, Castro’s human rights record is undeniably deplorable. Cuba has been known to jail political prisoners indefinitely, consolidate power in the hands of a few, and restrict freedom of speech and the press — but so has Egypt, Colombia, and Sudan. Those countries not only receive substantial amounts of aid from the U.S., but also have no congressionally mandated travel restrictions for Americans. Americans are even able to travel to countries with openly hostile and abusive governments like Iran, North Korea, Syria, and China without restrictions by the U.S. government.

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