From Jim Acosta
CNN National Political Correspondent
(CNN) — Beyonce and Jay-Z are continuing to face heat from Republicans in Washington for their jaunt last week to Cuba, which remains off-limits for Americans looking only for a tropical vacation.
“How nice it would have been if they had said something about freedom and human rights,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told CNN.
She and fellow Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart are calling on the Treasury Department to reveal whether the superstar couple traveled to Cuba legally.
“I’m not saying they should be politicians, but be sensitive to the cruelty of this regime, what they’ve done to the people of Cuba,” Ros-Lehtinen continued, adding it was “a shame to make it look like an exotic vacation. Shameful.”
Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart both represent districts in South Florida, which large populations of Cuban-Americans call home.
On Friday, they sent a letter to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control requesting the agency look into the trip and report back.
In 2012, the Obama administration lifted some restrictions on Cuba travel, instituting a “people-to-people” program that requires a strict itinerary for vacationers.
“Each traveler must have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba,” Treasury guidelines read.
Another Florida Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, castigated Beyonce and Jay-Z’s trip in a statement Monday, but also took a stance against the administration’s updated policies for travel to Cuba.
“U.S. law clearly bans tourism to Cuba by American citizens because it provides money to a cruel, repressive and murderous regime,” he wrote. “Since their inception, the Obama administration’s ‘people to people’ cultural exchange programs have been abused by tourists who have no interest in the Cuban people’s freedom.”
Rubio demanded the administration “explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba and it should disclose how many more of these trips they have licensed.”
When asked about Beyonce and Jay-Z’s trip, White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday would only refer questions to the Treasury, which has a standing policy not to discuss individual licenses.
“I cannot comment on a specific case or whether a license was obtained,” Treasury spokesman John Sullivan said.
Americans have been known to get around travel restrictions to Cuba in the past by stopping first in a country with flights to the island. Cuban customs officials are familiar enough with the practice to not stamp American passports when they cross their desks.
On Monday, Ros-Lehtinen said there was no excuse for Americans to travel to Cuba for a simple vacation.
“There are many places that are pleasant that you don’t feel like you’re being a pawn in the game of this Communist tyranny,” she said.
At least one Republican, however, feels differently. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, called on the U.S. government to end its longstanding ban on travel to Cuba.
“Senator Flake believes that the U.S. has pampered the Cuban government for more than fifty years now,” Flake’s spokeswoman, Genevieve Rozansky, said.
“He believes it’s time to get tough by allowing Americans to travel freely to the island,” she said.
CNN’s Erin McPike and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.
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