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Music and international politics collided in Cuba when superstar couple Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) and Beyoncé (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in Havana.  The destination drew the ire of congressional leaders, who questioned whether the trip was permitted under the U.S. embargo of Cuba.  Even though the trip was legally authorized as an educational exchange, the musical sensations missed a significant opportunity to use their stature and influence to spotlight oppression in Cuba.


What seemed lost on Jay-Z as he rapped about the frenzy over his trip is that he, Beyoncé, and all of us in the United States are blessed to live in a free society where we have the right to free speech.  We have full reign to criticize our government, our political leaders, and one another.  In recent weeks, too much of that free discourse has focused on celebrity anniversary destinations.  Meanwhile, the Castro regime continues its daily business of suffocating basic freedoms.  It’s time to take the spotlight off Jay-Z and shine it on the Cuban people who need our support.


Look no further than Cuban rappers Angel Remon Arzuaga and Marcos Maiqel Lima Cruz, both of whom were jailed for writing and listening to lyrics critical of the government.   As reported by the Babalu blog, Angel has been incarcerated since March during which time he engaged in a 16-day hunger strike.


Sadly, imprisonment is a common “cure” for dissenting voices in Cuba.  Take the story of journalist Normando Hernandez, who was sentenced to 25 years for criticizing the quality of bread:



Also listen to personal testimonies from other Cuban prisoners of conscience such as Ariel Sigler Amaya, Ana Lazara Rodriguez, Regis Iglesias Ramirez, Jose Luis Garcia Paneque, Armando Valladares, Carlos Alberto Montaner, and Roberto de Miranda.  Each account provides a different aspect of the regime’s disdain for individual freedom.


The Castros are right to fear artists like Angel Remon Arzuaga. Music is a powerful tool in spreading messages and influencing people, especially when it originates from a person sharing the experience of living under tyranny.  Evidently the regime considers such expression a serious threat; otherwise, Angel and other Cuban dissidents locked away from the world would be free.


Christopher Walsh is Program Coordinator for the Freedom Collection.