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Controversy surrounds Jay Z and Beyonce's Vacation in Cuba

Victoria L. Johnson Special to AmNews | , By | 6/20/2013, 12:12 p.m.

In the past two weeks, music moguls, Shawn Carter (Jay Z) and Beyonce Knowles-Carter have seen backlash in response to their recent trip to Havana, Cuba for their fifth year wedding anniversary. On April 5th, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz, Republican representatives in South Florida, wrote a letter to "express concern" to Adam Szubin, Director of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury's Department, who was in charge of approving the trip.

In the letter they state, "We write to express concern and to request information regarding the highly publicized trip by the U.S. musicians Beyonce Knowles-Carter (Beyonce) and Shawn Carter (Jay Z) to Cuba. We would like to respectfully request, within all applicable rules and guidelines, information regarding the type of license that Beyonce and Jay Z received; for what purpose, and who approved such travel."

According to ABC News, the U.S. Treasury officials said Tuesday that the couple's trip was licensed as an educational exchange. However this approval status has not diminished criticism of the trip.

Another musical icon and former owner of Def Jam Records, Russell Simmons, stated on his website, Global Grind, "I hope the United States government investigates your trip and threatens to fine you, under the 'Helms-Burton Act of 1996 (Trading With The Enemy),' which prohibits any sort of financial exchange with the Cuban government. Since the Cuban government holds a controlling interest in every business in Cuba, the food you ate, the hotel you stayed in, the cigars you bought (Montecristo No.4 are my favorites)...all of it is proof that you have traded with the enemy." He continued "For the sake of the Cuban people and the majority of Americans who are not allowed to visit this enchanted island, I hope that they think they can make an example of you."

On the other hand, Jameel Raeburn, creator of online music blog, This Goes In, feels that the country has more important problems to discuss. He told AmNews "I think it shows just how strong of a disconnect the political media have with rap music, or the hip hop culture in general. Not too long ago, Common was under fire for attending a White House poetry reading after discovering lyrics from almost 20 years ago. And now Jay-Z is under similar backlash for celebrating his 5th anniversary in Cuba? I think our country has a lot more to worry about than the daily lives of rappers and the one-sided interpretation of rap lyrics."

Jay Z himself, has responded to the criticism as well. On April 11th, the 43-year-old rapper released a song titled "Open Letter" to address the criticism. In the song he states "This communist talk is so confusing, when it's from China, the very mic that I'm using". He also implies that he received the approval from President Obama with the lines, "Boy from the hood got White House clearance" and "Obama said "chill, you get me impeached. But you don't need this sh*t anyway. Chill with me on the beach."

However, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made it clear that Jay Z had no clearance from President Obama, but the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. He stated "I am absolutely saying that the White house from the President on down had nothing to do with anybody's travel to Cuba that is something that Treasury handles." He continued "The President did not communicate with Jay-Z over the trip."