Rep. Diaz-Balart: So-Called ‘People to People’ Travel to Cuba Amounts to Tourism



April 9, 2013

So-Called ‘People to People’ Travel to Cuba Amounts to Tourism

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) released the following statement in response to the U.S. Treasury Department confirming that they provided so-called “people-to-people” travel licenses to Beyoncé Carter-Knowles (Beyoncé) and Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) for a recent trip to Cuba.

“I am outraged by the vague response from the U.S. Department of the Treasury that failed to answer the simple questions posed by my colleague Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and me regarding the apparent tourist activities of celebrities Mrs. Carter-Knowles and Mr. Carter in Cuba.

“In our letter, we explicitly requested information regarding how the highly publicized trip to Cuba, which was widely touted as tourism in press reports and Castro regime propaganda, possibly could comply with the prohibition against ‘tourist activities’ in U.S. law. The Treasury Department’s response provided overly general information on their policies and methods of reviewing applications, but provided no facts specific to that highly publicized trip. We also asked for information regarding the process of how the specific license in question was approved, and by whom. We have no answers to those straightforward questions.

“I have repeatedly spoken out against abuses that result from the ‘people-to-people’ category of travel because it provides propaganda boosts and hard currency to the Castro dictatorship, and harms the Cuban people’s struggle for basic human rights and liberties. I have said that this category of travel skirts the law. It has become obvious that, in this case, the line into tourism was crossed. The Beyoncé and Jay-Z trip is a high profile example of why the ‘people-to-people’ category of travel should be eliminated. It amounts to tourism.

“Many people have been deeply injured by the brutal Castro regime. Some are former political prisoners who were beaten and tortured in Castro’s gulags, and others have lost family members to Castro’s firing squads and prisons. Permitting apparent tourism travel to Cuba is an insult to them all. I will continue to press for answers on this issue of profound importance to my community and the Cuban people.

“Cuba remains an island prison for those still struggling for basic freedoms. I urge President Obama to side with the Cuban people and halt any further channeling of U.S. tourism dollars to the their jailers.”

You may view the response from the U.S. Department of the Treasury here.