Part of me believes that Beyonce and Jay-Z were naïve when they chose to celebrate their five-year wedding anniversary in Cuba. However, as the daughter of a former political prisoner in Cuba, I would argue that they should have known better than to travel to the island and support its repressive regime.
The Cuban people do not live in freedom. They are closely monitored by the Castro regime and are restrained from openly criticizing the government. Cuba is a nation stuck in time, and the regime's complete control of businesses, the press and the Internet has kept the Cuban people from advancing and achieving their dreams. They are too busy trying to figure out where they will get their next meal to feed their families. They are impoverished and lack any real opportunity for economic prosperity and self-actualization – all in the name of Castro's revolution.
The money spent by these superstars on their vacation only benefits the Cuban regime because, as Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen explained, "Cuba's tourism industry is wholly state-controlled." Perhaps the couple strolled passed my father's old business office that was taken away by the Cuban government. The regime has no respect for individual rights.
Beyonce and Jay-Z simply appear to have no knowledge of the tragic history and current living conditions, political distress and human rights abuses in Cuba. If Beyonce and Jay-Z had been born and raised in Cuba, they would have merely survived, with no opportunity to realize their aspirations. Only in a land that treasures liberty and the pursuit of happiness can such dreams become a reality.
While the flashy couple celebrated in Cuba, Cuban dissidents continue to rot in jail for decades for simply disagreeing with the government. The communist regime continues the beatings and constant detentions, threatens their families and forces many dissidents into exile only to keep a tight control of their communist revolution.
Last year, 31-year-old political prisoner Wilmar Villar Mendoza died in jail after a hunger strike. The government rounded up 50 to 80 dissidents who were planning to attend the funeral, and they harassed Villar's family. Before he died, Villar was stripped naked and placed in solidarity confinement. After his death, the Cuban government brushed off any criticisms from the outside.
The stories from the political prisoners who have survived are countless and they should never be forgotten. They have seen their colleagues executed. They have been tortured, humiliated and harassed because of their political views.
Then there is the depressing case of U.S. government contractor Brian Gross, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba and was convicted of charges against the state. He brought over communications equipment into Cuba as part of the USAID democracy-building program. The Cuban government has no regards for his deteriorating health and no intention of releasing him in the near future.
How unfortunate that Beyonce and Jay-Z made no mention or even showed any empathy toward this American citizen who was wrongly accused or any of the Cuban political prisoners. They lack any true interest in plight of the Cuban people.
It is also disappointing but not surprising when we listen to Jay-Z rap that he is "like Che Guevara with bling." Does Jay-Z really want to be associated with a Marxist revolutionary who left behind a trail of murder and torture?
CNN's Anderson Cooper is mistaken when he talked about Beyonce: "It's her world and we are just living in it." We can't live in Beyonce's world of ignorance, insensitivity and indifference. As Americans, we should be aware of how other human beings around the world and in our own backyard are deprived of freedom and harassed because of their beliefs.
Unfortunately, Beyonce and Jay-Z failed to learn about the tragic human rights abuses and lack of freedom for the Cuban people, which is why the Obama Administration may have to justify how this elite couple's anniversary trip complies with U.S. law and regulations regarding travel to Cuba.
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