Beyoncé and Jay-Z's anniversary trip to Havana, Cuba, was approved by the U.S. government, Treasury officials have said.
The recording artists, Beyoncé Knowles Carter and husband Shawn Carter, headed to the island nation last week for their five-year wedding anniversary, raising official eyebrows as the U.S. has had a half-century-old trade embargo on the communist island that prohibits visits solely for the sake of tourism.
Once images of the couple visiting Old Havana surfaced, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rep. Ilean Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) blew the whistle on the Carters' trip and questioned the validity of their visit under U.S. law.
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But the trip was signed off on by the federal government, a letter from the Treasury Department now confirms. The couple obtained "people-to-people" licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which allow U.S. citizens to interact with the people of Cuba for educational exchanges.
U.S. citizens are also allowed to obtain licenses to visit family or for academic, journalistic, religious or cultural exchange trips, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"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 to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba," according to a letter from Alastair M. Fitzpayne, assistant secretary for legislative affairs, to Diaz-Balart.
Under the license, travelers must certify in writing that they will adhere to "a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in a meaningful interaction between travelers and individuals of Cuba," the letter said.
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The couple, who married on April 4, 2008, took in the sights of Old Havana, visited a school, dined on a rooftop terrace and strolled the fan-filled streets in their island best. They also visited areas of the Cuban capital that date back to colonial times, the Associated Press reported.
They were mobbed at Havana's historic La Guarida restaurant Thursday, and police were called to keep fans at bay, People reported.
But the letter did not pacify Ros-Lehtinen, who insisted that the trip did nothing to quell the communist rule.
"That was a wedding-anniversary vacation that was not even disguised as a cultural program," the lawmaker said on her website Tuesday in response to the letter. "As more human-rights activists engage in hunger strikes, I don't think they will see any evidence of how this scam endeavor will help them become independent of the regime."
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