Forget the budget deficit, gun control, or any other piece of legislation Congress is currently considering. What America really needs is an investigation into Beyonce and Jay Z’s recent trip to Cuba. Two Republican Congress members have called upon the U.S. Treasury Department to investigate the duos recent vacation to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Yes, this is a great use of time Congress, surely there is nothing more important going on. Sequester? What sequester! This investigation highlights the continued inanity of the U.S.’s prohibition against travel to Cuba.
Prior to any individuals travel to Cuba they must receive express permission to travel. Travel is only permitted for those engaging in academic, religious or cultural exchanges. The two Republican congress members allege that Jay and Beyonce failed to get the proper clearance from the State Department. The two Republicans calling for an investigation have close ties with Florida’s Cuban community. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart said that the Castro regime would just use the stars trip as propaganda to excuse further atrocities against its people. If the couple failed to get a licensee, they would be forced to pay a fine.Yes, a fine. That’s all.
This overreaction illuminates the outdated trade embargo that prohibits travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens. In November of 2012 the U.N. called for the U.S. to lift its trade embargo, something it has done every year for the 21 years. President Obama has refused to lift the five-decade old trade embargo, but has eased some travel restrictions.
In January of 2013, Cuba lifted most of its travel restrictions on its citizens. Residents of Cuba are now free to leave as long as they possess a current passport and national identity card. That means that Cuba provides greater ease of travel to and from its country than the U.S. does. If nothing else, this should be embarrassing to the U.S. as the alleged purveyors of freedom around the world. Obama says he is waiting for Cuba to reform more before lifting the embargo, but since Fidel Castro turned over power to his brother in 2008, there have been over 300 economic reforms in the country.
If you’re a deficit hawk, then you should be peeved that the U.S. devotes time and money from 10 various federal agencies towards enforcing the embargo. Europe, Japan and Canada all travel and conduct business with Cuba normally. The embargo costs the U.S. $1.2 to $3.6 billion dollars.
The U.S. policy towards Cuba is a relic of the Cold War and one that should have been left in the last century. Perhaps this ridiculous investigation will be the final kick in the pants the U.S. needs to put an end to this outdated policy.