JAY-Z'S HAVANA: Was HE Advocating Normalization Of Relations With CUBA?
Recently President Barack Obama denied having any part in Jay-Z's and Beyoncé’s trip to Cuba after lyrics surfaced from Jay-Z’s song “Open Letter” hinting that Obama may have given the supercouple clearance.
Obama responded by saying, “This is not something the White House gets involved with; we have better things to do,” in a “Today” interview.
I think Jay-Z was involved in a bigger mission and I will outline my views shortly.
Two Florida Republicans — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart — are requesting an investigation by the Treasury Department into the trip, as they believe the couple appeared to look and behave as tourists when they visited the country, basing their judgment on media reports and video footage of the couple strolling through the country’s capital Havana.
The United States prohibits tourism travel by Americans to Cuba due to an existing embargo imposed on the country.
In his interview with “Today,” Obama said the couple traveled to Cuba for an educational visit, which has been allowed for some time under conditions relaxed a few years ago.
How ironic: An American can travel to Cuba for "educational" purposes, on "humanitarian missions" and other specific work-related reasons; but not to simply enjoy the stay and to sight-see, or to just hang out and eat great food.
The United States devised the embargo as a commercial sanction on Cuba’s economy. So by traveling to Cuba on vacation, the argument goes, an American citizen would be supporting the Cuban economy illegally. Knowing the history of America and Cuba and considering the embargo at hand, why would Jay-Z and Beyoncé saunter around Havana so casually?
Jay-Z is a multimillionaire, a recognized icon in his field and deemed a smart businessman. Beyoncé is a well-known singer internationally. The couple really don’t need this type of controversy.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z both voted for Obama: they supported him with fundraising campaigns; and, they even performed for the president at events. So, why would Jay-Z purposely put Obama’s name in a rap song once he returned from his trip, knowing that it would stir up controversy?
Is the power couple using its star power to shed light on the embargo imposed on Cuba because of the abysmal economic effects it has on the island nation? Were they deliberately drawing necessary publicity on the unjust sanctions?
I believe so. Celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyonce are revered. They have substantial societal influence especially among the younger generation.
Maybe Americans will now inquire about travel restrictions to Cuba more as a result of the controversy and even learn something about the embargo; an unfair policy that causes millions of Cubans to suffer economically from the lack of opportunity to conduct regular business with the United States.
Obama is in a position to fight for normalization of relations with Cuba. He no longer has to worry about re-election and should push for an end to the embargo.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé acted as advocates for the Cuban people by publicly traveling to the so-called communist island and filming their encounters with the people, shaking hands and smiling with the locals.
This is what gave American politicians and others the impression that they traveled as tourists.
Jay-Z then said he loves Cuba in his song and hinted that he was given special privileges by Obama.
Although Obama would have to go to Congress for sanctions to be lifted there are many things he can do to improve economic conditions.
Obama should live up to his first campaign mantra: change.
Support an end to the sanctions on Cuba.
A version of this column was first published on NYUNEWS