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Columns April 22, 2013 //  by  // 4 Comments

Trip, song an open slap to Cuban refugees, dissenters

Picture a peaceful protest calling for an end to police violence and brutality. Suddenly, a barrage of police batons and gun butts shower down upon spectators and participants. People are then thrown indiscriminately in overcrowded and unsanitary jail cells. On the streets, underfed children walk past decrepit and decayed buildings to go home to their deteriorating homes, which they share with several other families.

Rapper Jay-Z, left, along with his superstar wife, Beyoncé Knowles, took a Mar. 31 visit to Cuba for their fifth wedding anniversary. The former Brooklyn Nets  part owner answered those criticizing the trip in song that does not acknowledge the human rights violations and squashed freedoms of an autocratic regime long led by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, right, and his brother, Raúl. | Wikimedia Commons

Rapper Jay-Z, left, along with his superstar wife, Beyoncé Knowles, took a March 31 visit to Cuba for their fifth wedding anniversary. The former Brooklyn Nets part owner answered those criticizing the trip in song that does not acknowledge the human rights violations and squashed freedoms of an autocratic regime long led by Cuban leader Fidel Castro and his brother, Raúl. | Wikimedia Commons

These were not the images that hip-hop artist Beyoncé Knowles and her rapper husband, Jay-Z, saw on their bizarre March 31 trip to Cuba in celebration of their fifth anniversary.

At first glance, a celebrity visiting another country is no big deal, unless that celebrity is Jane Fonda or Dennis Rodman; however, the Carters’ trip to Cuba gave money to the oppressive Cuban regime that can now be used to further ensnare its people. Their images are now being used in Communist Cuban propaganda — propaganda that the Cuban people have no way of counteracting due to the lack of freedom of speech. Their careless and indifferent outlook to these issues shows a lack of either intelligence or sympathy in concern toward the Cuban plight.

Jay-Z defended his trip to Cuba in a new song called “Open Letter.”

Due to the 1960s embargo, US citizens are not allowed to travel to Cuba unless they have obtained a license for academic, journalistic, religious or cultural exchange purposes. In “Open Letter,” Jay-Z claims that he and his party received White House clearance for their trip to Cuba, but on April 17, President Barack Obama had a different story.

“I wasn’t familiar that they were taking the trip,” Obama said, “My understanding is I think they went through a group that organizes these educational trips down to Cuba.  You know, this is not something the White House was involved with, we’ve got better things to do.”

Regardless of who authorized the trip, it was offensive to many Cuban-Americans. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Cuban-American, has been an outspoken opponent of the trip.

“Well, I won’t rap it, but I’ll say, I mean, first of all, I think Jay-Z needs to get informed,” he said. “I think if Jay-Z was truly interested in the true state of affairs in Cuba, he would have met people that are being oppressed, including a hip-hop artist in Cuba who is right now being oppressed and persecuted and is undergoing a hunger strike because of his political lyrics. And I think he missed an opportunity. But that’s Jay-Z’s issue.”

According to Human Rights Watch, Cuba is the only country in Latin America that stifles all forms of political dissent. In Cuba, political dissidents are subject to criminal charges and are held without due process. Between January and August 2011, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation documented 2,224 arbitrary detentions in which many prisoners were not even presented arrest orders to substantiate the arrest. Cuban citizens live in near isolation from the rest of the world because the Castro regime has control of all media outlets and restricts the use of outside information. Citizens must request from the government the right to travel off the island and requests are typically denied, particularly to outspoken advocates. The list of human rights violations could go on and on.

“The travel policies need to be tightened because they are being abused,” Rubio said. “These are tourist trips, and they are – what they’re doing is providing hard currency and funding so that a tyrannical regime can maintain its grip on the island of Cuba, and I think that’s wrong,” he said. “And quite frankly, I think it’s hypocritical of the people who took that trip because they didn’t go down there and meet with some of the people that are actually in trouble today.”

A true cultural exchange would have required seeing the oppression the Cuban government has placed upon its people.

“If they really wanted to know what was going on in Cuba, they should have met with some of the people that are suffering there, not simply smoke cigars and take a stroll down the street,” Rubio said.

The Carters’ trip was an exercise in ignorance. Next time Jay-Z decides to rap about expressing his freedom of speech and sticking it to the man, he should avoid it in the context of traveling to Cuba, the land of dictatorial power and restriction of unalienable rights. It just makes him look stupid.

Sarah Backer is a business sophomore and may be reached at opinion@thedailycougar.com.

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  • Fulgencio Batista

    I approve this message. When American tourists used to come down here and whore around in the 1950s and American businesses and organized crime were making money hand over fist, the freedom, social mobility, and health and well-being of the population were the envy of the world. Hopefully Marco Rubio and all those rich Cubans in Miami, who had their party broken up by those weirdos with beards and dashing good looks, will be able to free Cuba again.

    • Griffin

      Nice try with the little bit of sarcasm, but your ignorance is too obvious.

      Marco Rubio’s father fought against Batista in the 1950′s and was arrested and tortured by Batista’s goons before he fled to the US in 1956. After Castro seized power, Rubio Sr. returned to Cuba to see if what he heard was true, that the Revolution would bring peace and freedom to Cuba. What he discovered was that as bad as Batista was, Castro was even worse, and so he went back to the US.

      Your cute joke is an insult to the tens of thousands of Cuban Americans who were the victims of both dictators: Batista and Castro.

      http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/103113/marco-rubio-immigrant-cuba-exile-castro#

  • Mario Machin

    Your sarcastic comments show what little you know about Cuba and its history. I could go into a lot of details but in the interest of brevity all I have to point out is this, how many people left Cuba before Castro and how many have left since he took power? Your reference to “all those rich Cubans in Miami” shows yet again your lack of knowledge. The vast majority of these people got here without a penny to their names and have taken advantage of the freedom that this great country offers and through hard work and sacrifice have made their share of the American dream come true. I closing I commend this young lady on her editorial.

  • Steven Vaca

    This is a ridiculous opinion piece. First of all, many Americans go to Cuba as tourists. Jay-Z going to Cuba shouldn’t be news as much as any other American going to another country as a citizen. In fact U of H students have gone to Cuba as part of academic programs, poorer citizens of the USA have gone to Cuba to take advantage of their free medical school, ELAM, and there are many more who go. Doctors who graduated from ELAM were offered to help during the Katrina disaster and Bush wouldn’t allow it, they were also sent to Haiti after their disaster.

    Besides that, this whole editorial fails to mention the crimes that the US commit. “Political prisoners” are mentioned but not the political prisoners of the United States, such as Bradley Manning and the many Guantanamo prisoners being ironically held and tortured in Cuba by the United States. Also there is an inherent double standard in that nobody cares when someone goes to Communist China as a tourist. Is it because the US is in debt to them, or is it that they produce a large amount of goods?

    Besides that the writer calls Castro a dictator but he has been democratically elected every time. He ousted a US backed dictator in the first place and immediately improved the island. Cuba was the only country in the world to meet the World Wide Fund for Nature’s definition of sustainable development and has great statistics for literacy, health, and education. Castro is beloved by many, Nelson Mandela love him and the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez as well. He constantly travels the country without bodyguards and among his people and he doesn’t worry about being attacked or hazed or anything else. When could an American president ever be able to do that?

    One of the only drawbacks that Cuba has is an underdeveloped economy and people constantly point that as a proof of its failure. But never does anybody point out other underdeveloped countries in Latin America as failures of capitalism. When people immigrate out of Cuba its supposedly because of political reasons but when they go out of Mexico its because of the economy?

    This writer does not appreciate the complexity of Cuban society and politics and needs to stop listening to American propaganda.

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