The mystery of whether Beyonce and Jay-Z's wedding anniversary trip to Cuba was legal has been solved. The Treasury Department says the power couple's trip to Cuba was authorized under a licensed program that encourages "meaningful contacts" with the Cuban people.
The acknowledgment was made in Treasury Department letters sent Tuesday to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican Florida lawmakers who had asked the department if the trip had violated the embargo against Cuba and was licensed. A copy of the letter to Diaz-Balart was obtained by ABC News, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen's office released a copy of the letter sent to her.
U.S. law prevents Americans from traveling to Cuba unless they do so under a general, religious or "people-to-people" license. Trips for tourism are not allowed.
Beyonce and Jay-Z spent their fifth wedding anniversary visiting Cuba. They were photographed in the streets of Old Havana and having a meal at a well known restaurant raising questions if their trip was nothing more than a tourist visit and whether they had entered legally.
"It is our understanding that the travelers in question traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip organized by a group authorized by OFAC to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba" says the letter from Alastair M. Fitzpayne, the Treasury Department's Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.
OFAC is the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control that enforces sanctions against Cuba and also supervises the program that grants "people-to-people" licenses to groups that bring Americans to Cuba for "meaningful interaction with the Cuban people."
The "people-to-people" license program was halted under President George W. Bush but restarted by the Obama administration in 2011. Since then, more than 220 licenses have been granted to organizations that are then authorized to bring American citizens to Cuba. Cuban-Americans are allowed re-entry into Cuba as part of a family reunification program.
Licensed groups must provide itineraries of trip schedules to OFAC showing "a full-time schedule of education exchange activities" for such meaningful interactions. But that doesn't mean American visitors can't have some fun in Cuba, according to the letter "travelers pursuing a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities may engage in non-educational activities off-hours."
In a statement released Tuesday evening, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen did not seem satisfied with the Treasury Department's answer.
"That was a wedding anniversary vacation that was not even disguised as a cultural program," she said.
Ros-Lehtinen said that if the pair's "tourist activities" are classified as an educational exchange trip, "then it is clear that the Obama Administration is not serious about denying the Castro regime an economic lifeline that US tourism will extend to it." She added, "As more human rights activists engage in hunger strikes, I don't think they will see any evidence of how this scam endeavor will help them become independent of the regime."