Sending Money to Cuba
Since before Christmas, I have been trying to help an American send money to a Cuban friend in Cuba. It is against the law in the US to transfer money to Cuba, under the Embargo the US has inflicted on that country. American financial institutions that normally would transfer funds to a foreign country, like Western Union., do not even list Cuba as a country. I would like to know how Cuban Americans arrange to send money back home. I am sure they have a way around this legislation.
In Canada, there is a conpany that transfers money overseas, Transcard. It allows a person in Cuba to open an account in that country, that functions like a credit card. A Canadian can open a file with them to transfer money from Canada into the Cuban Transcard account in Cuba.
My new American friend contacted me after I responded to his plea on a bloggers site for a Canadian to help him transfer funds to Cuba. It turned out we belong to the same church, he is a member of a local church in Knoxville, Tn. He had met a poor family in Cuba and wanted to sent them a little money from time to time. I agreed to help.
The Cuban fellow had a Transcard account It seemed like a simple matter to transfer the funds mailed to me from the US. It proved to be more complcated. I needed more information on the mechanics of the transfer. I could not get Transcard to return my calls and I always got an answering service when I phoned them.
I decided to see if there was a better way to transfer funds. Transcard is very expensive. I have now been able to send $70 Canadian. When all the fees are paid (including 8% fee to change money into Cuban pesos), the amount transfered to the individual is the equivalent to $49.00 Canadian.
I began my inquiry by trying to contact the Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association. They too did not return my calls. I contacted our largest bank to find out if Canadian banks had branches in Cuba. To my surprise, they do not. in spite of the fact that Canada trades with Cuba. Banks in Canada deal through Cuban banks. Following that I wrote the Canadian Embassy in Cuba to ask the best way to transfer funds and whether the Embassy would receive and hold the funds to be picked up. They too, did not respond. Shame on them.! I decided to contact my local member of parliament's office To seem if they could answer my questions. They promised to contact Foreign Affairs office to get the answers. They did not reply. Our postal service is listed as an agent for an organization that cooperates with Transcard to transfer funds. I contacted the main postal office in North Bay. First the girl said that was no problem until she realized Cuba was not listed on the list of countries to which they can transfer funds .
Canadian credit cards, not American ones, can be used in Cuba. This is how Canadian vacationers access more funds when the need them. Unfortunately, a Cuban cannot acquire a Canadian credit card.
I have also thought of getting a Canadian going on vacation to take the funds. I have relatives that vacation in Cuba. Ironically, the day I sorted this all out I got a postcard from my sister. . . on vacation in Cuba.
All of this has been interesting and very frustrating. I was about to give up. I had offered to return the funds to my American friend, and sent him all the information I found out saying he could pursue it from the US as well as I could. He tried and to our surprise in managed to contact Transcard.
I have now sent the money to Cuba. If this works I will do this for my American friends on a regular basis. He had previously tried to send cash in the mail and only one in three attempts did the money reach his Cuban friend. He figures someone in the Cuban Postal Service stole it. When Transcard told me I would not get a written receipt from them, I now have doubts about their veracity. Time will tell.!