You might not think that political bloggers would be particularly interested in the whereabouts of celebrities, but the minute that the musical power couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, touched down in Cuba, an anniversary getaway suddenly became the business of the Cuban diaspora in the United States. While the Cuban embargo doesn't limit travel by U.S. citizens to the island in and of itself (Cuban-Americans are allowed to visit, even under the travel ban), it is illegal for them to spend money in Cuba, at least without special dispensation. This of course, makes travel to Cuba impossible for most Americans: how do you visit a country and not spend money there? Even though Havana Times, an on-island blog, claimed yesterday that the couple reportedly did receive permission from the U.S. Treasury Department to make the trip, for most diaspora bloggers, the offense is way more than the simple bending of a travel rule. To them, it's all in the principle.
So what's the big deal that Beyonce are in Jay-Z In Cuba?
Alberto de la Cruz, blogging at Babalú, was happy to explain:
Reading through the news coverage these past few days of Beyonce and Jay-Z's ill-advised and thoroughly offensive vacation in Cuba as guests of the apartheid Castro dictatorship, much of the concern centers around the legality of their trip to the communist island. That is certainly an important point since it is illegal for American citizens to visit Cuba as tourists, even if you are personal friends of President Obama. But what I personally find most troubling about this scandalous act by American music's most prominent couple is their complete and utter insensitivity to the repression and brutality suffered by the Cuban people — the majority of them black — at the hands of the tyrannical Castro dictatorship. By ‘vacationing'…as if they were just visiting any other destination, Beyonce and Jay-Z are in effect telling America, the world, and most cruelly, Cuba's enslaved people, that they tacitly approve of the island's brutal and racist regime.
He also took issue with the public relations mileage that the Cuban government seems to be getting from the visit:
Naturally, the Castro dictatorship sees Beyonce and Jay-Z's visit as a propaganda opportunity to portray themselves as something other than a repressive tyranny…releasing photos of the power couple enjoying the sights and luxuries of Cuba, but making sure they leave out the fact that those amenities are denied to typical Cubans. All the public sees is two very rich and very powerful Americans enjoying a Caribbean getaway. The beatings of dissidents, the stoning of families opposed to the Castro dictatorship, and their violent arrests and imprisonment is conveniently left out of the press releases and news reports.
While you are busy watching Beyonce dancing salsa in Cuba, the Castro dictatorship knows you will not be watching or thinking about the reality of life in Castro's Cuba. You will not be thinking about the hundreds of political arrests that take place every month, or the tens of thousands of political prisoners rotting in Cuban gulags…you are not thinking about Sonia Garro, a black woman and dissident who has been unjustly imprisoned for over a year. While your eyes are focused on Beyonce and Jay-Z partying on the forbidden island of Cuba, the Castro dictatorship knows your eyes are not focused on the defenseless Ladies in White being mercilessly pummeled and beaten by the Castro dictatorship's State Security and hired thugs. That, my friends, is what bothers me the most about Beyonce and Jay-Z's vacation to Cuba: They have helped the Castro dictatorship hide its atrocities and racist repression.
Uncommon Sense, meanwhile, was focusing the spotlight on continuing injustices in Cuba – in this case, quite fittingly, the plight of a Cuban rapper who has undertaken a hunger strike to demand his freedom:
The same week American hip-hop superpunk Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce celebrated their wedding anniversary in Havana, Cuban rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga sat in a Cuban jail cell, on hunger strike after the secret police broke into his mother's home and beat and arrested him.
Jay-Z may have 99 problems, but it's safe to say that letting Remon's suffering– the suffering of a fellow musician, the suffering of a fellow black man, the suffering of any Cuban — infringe on his and Beyonce's partying in Cuba ain't one.
The famous revolutionary Guevara was not a friend of African-Americans. Thus, Jay-Z demonstrates immense ignorance about Guevara’s past history and comments, or his only concern is to show his cool side in front of the cameras.
Following are two quotes attributed to “El Che” with regards to African-Americans:
‘We’re going to do for blacks exactly what blacks did for the revolution. By which I mean: nothing.’
‘The Negro is indolent and lazy, and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent.’
And now we find out that the Cuban authorities have demoted Afro-Cuban Roberto Zurbano for penning a recent article in the New York Times that was highly critical of racism in the Cuban Revolution and its leaders.
Which brings us back to Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Cuban vacation. Will they meet with human-rights dissidents in Cuba – most of which are Afro Cubans, like Dr. Oscar Biscet – and advocate on behalf of Roberto Zurbano, or will they concentrate on just having fun?
Between you and me, the Cuban authorities hoped that Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Cuban excursion would end the articles and coverage by the American and world media outlets on Yoani Sánchez. Well, kudos to Yoani and the powerful message that she’s aired about the lack of human rights and civil liberties in Cuba.
Castro's state media was the first to post pictures of the trip and to tip off foreign news bureaus on the island about the star's presence and whereabouts.
Because the foreign media has been focusing too much on critical Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and pro-democracy leaders Rosa Maria Paya and Berta Soler.
The blog also noted one of Beyoncé's past transgressions, referring to her 2009 agreement with one of the sons of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, to sing at a New Years Eve party in St. Barts. (She reportedly later donated her $2 million fee to Haiti earthquake relief):
Beyonce corrected her controversial action then with a noble deed after — can she do the same now?
Is that too much to ask?