Florida senator Marco Rubio doubled-down on his criticism of Jay-Z and Beyoncé on Sunday, describing the couple as “hypocritical” for visiting Cuba, which is still under US embargo. [Video below]
Rubio, a Republican being tipped as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said Jay-Z should have made the effort to become better informed about Cuba’s political past before the trip – and in particular the rapper’s hero, Che Guevara. He also missed an opportunity by not attempting to engage with cultural figures being oppressed by the government, Rubio said.
His rebuke came after Jay-Z rapped an open letter to critics such as Rubio. In Open Letter, Jay-Z who went to Cuba on his wedding anniversary, sang: “Politicians never did shit for me except lie to me, distort history … They wanna give me jail time and a fine.”
Although the embargo imposed after the Cuban missile crisis remains in place, it has been gradually eroded, particularly during the Obama administration. Relatives, journalists, researchers and other categories can visit. The US Treasury Department gave permission for Jay-Z and Beyoncé to go.
There is debate inside the US between those – especially the older generation of Cuban immigrants – who regard the embargo as essential to bringing down the Communist government, and a younger generation of Cubans who either do not care or welcome the chance to visit relatives on the island. Some opposed to the embargo argue it has been counterproductive and that regular exchanges and trade would have done more to undermine the Cuban government.
Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, declined during an interview to rap a response to the open letter.
“Well, I won’t rap it, but I’ll say, I mean, first of all, I think Jay-Z needs to get informed,” Rubio said. “One of his heroes is Che Guevara. Che Guevara was a racist. Che Guevara was a racist that wrote extensively about the superiority of white Europeans over people of African descent, so he should inform himself on the guy that he’s propping up.
“Secondly, 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.”
If the visit did not violate the embargo rules, it showed the ridiculousness of the laws, Rubio said. “The travel policies need to be tightened because they are being abused. 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.
Rubio was asked about the visit on two Sunday talk shows, where he had been booked primarily to discuss immigration reform.
He suggested Jay-Z and Beyoncé should have reached out to fellow artists who are being persecuted. “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,” Rubio told CNN.
“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.
Interview with Sen. Rubio from ABC’s “This Week”
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Photo Credit: Senator Marco Rubio attends the Washington Ideas forum. Yuri Gripas / Reuters