Our View: Obama’s Havana State of Mind

April 9, 2013

DOUBLE STANDARD? There shouldn’t be one rule on Cuba vacations for friends of the president, and another for everyone else

He may have 99 Problems, but apparently the ban on tourist travel by Americans to Cuba isn’t one of them.  We refer, of course, to power couple Jay-Z and Beyonce’s recent vacation to Havana to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

Critics have slammed the visit, saying the hip-hop stars’ jaunt to Cuba provides cash and credibility to one of the world’s oldest and most brutal communist dictatorships.

“U.S. law clearly bans tourism to Cuba by American citizens because it provides money to a cruel, repressive and murderous regime,” said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican.

Human rights campaigners like Rubio are absolutely correct when they say that the money tourists spend in Cuba helps to bankroll the ruthless Castro dictatorship.  Indeed, foreign tourism provides a badly needed source of funds to the cash-strapped island, which has been pinching pennies since the old Soviet Union cut off subsidies some 20 years ago.

But the tourist dollars Americans spend in places like North Korea, Iran and the People’s Republic of China also help to prop up repressive and abusive regimes in those countries.  Yet Americans are perfectly free to book vacations to creepy destinations like Beijing, Tehran and Pyonyang if they so choose (just ask Dennis Rodman).

And that’s the way it should be.  The United States isn’t a communist gulag like Castro’s Cuba, and it shouldn’t act like one by requiring Americans to ask for special permission when they want to go on vacation – even if it is to take in a show at the Tropicana over a Havana Club on the rocks.

While we may not see eye to eye with Senator Rubio on the wisdom of the travel ban, we fully support his demand that the White House explain exactly how Jay-Z and Beyonce’s trip squares “with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba,” as well as his request that the Obama Administration “disclose how many more of these trips they have licensed.”

Regrettable as it may be to lovers of rum and cigars across the fruited plain, the ban on tourist travel to Cuba is still the law of the land.  So as much as we’d enjoy cruising down Havana’s Malecón while sipping a mojito in the back of a ’57 Chevy and listening to Empire State of Mind, that would be illegal.  And if it’s illegal for us, it should be illegal for Jay-Z and Beyonce too – no matter how much money they raise for Mr. Obama.

America shouldn’t have one rule on Cuba vacations for the politically-connected, and another for everyone else.  This isn’t Castro’s Cuba, after all.

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