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Jay-Z and Beyonce Had Permission for Cuba Trip: Source

U.S. Treasury had licensed couple's visit to the island nation

April 9, 2013 8:15 AM ET
Beyonce leaves the Saratoga Hotel in Havana, Cuba before touring Old Havana with Jay-Z.
Beyonce leaves the Saratoga Hotel in Havana, Cuba.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Jay-Z and Beyoncé had approval from the U.S. Treasury Department to visit Cuba last week on a "people-to-people" cultural trip, a source familiar with their itinerary told Reuters.

A decades-long U.S. trade embargo against Cuba prohibits most Americans from traveling to the island nation without permission from the federal government. Three Cuban-American Republicans in Congress, all from Florida, had questioned whether the star couple had obtained the necessary license, asking the Treasury Department to investigate the trip.

Jay-Z and Beyonce Face Questions Over Cuba Vacation

Jay-Z and Beyoncé celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary last week with four days in Cuba. The Reuters source said their stay included visits with Cuban musicians, clubs where music was performed, a children's theater group and Cuba's top arts school. The stars took no meetings with Cuban officials and shied away from tourist activities such as going to the beach, the source said, noting that even their walking tour of Old Havana was led by a prominent local architect.

U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart last week wrote a letter to the Treasury Department requesting additional information about the couple's visit, which they said the Cuban government was using for propaganda purposes. Florida Senator Marco Rubio said federal cultural exchange programs "have been abused by tourists," and said that if the U.S. had licensed Jay-Z and Beyoncé's trip, "the Obama Administration should explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba."

The Obama administration has eased some restrictions on travel to Cuba, issuing licenses for certain academic, religious or cultural exchanges. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees permission for Americans to travel to Cuba, said it does not comment on individual cases. Penalties for violating OFACS regulations can range up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

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