sending money from USA to a non-cuban in Cuba
August 30, 2010 11:09 AM   Subscribe

How do I send money to a non-relative African citizen in Cuba from USA?

I'm an American in NYC, and I need to send money to a Ugandan woman who is in Cuba. Western Union told me that they would send the money to a Cuban who is a relative to me, but not a non-Cuban, even if it was a relative (which she is not.)

Could anyone tell me how to send money to this woman?

I don't know much about my friend's situation, but she might have Cuban friends who could help her, maybe even friends who have relatives in NY city, I don't know. She doesn't have a bank account, but told me she has a friend who does.

As an aside, it's a crazy story. The woman was my housekeeper in Uganda. We really liked her, and got her a job with the Cuban ambassador to Uganda. He ended up helping her get to Cuba to study. She ran into some problems and has been bouncing around various Caribbean nations looking for work. Then she was diagnosed with some sort of tumor, and she went back to Cuba for treatment. She's recovering now, but has no money whatsoever. I can't afford to help her much (no job, either), but her family in Uganda scraped together a couple hundred bucks and sent it to me via Western Union because they figured I could send it to Cuba. Now I find it isn't as easy as they thought.

Anyway, this is really an amazing woman, so I hope I can figure out how to help her.
posted by Jeebu to Travel & Transportation around Cuba (11 answers total)
You might not be able to: "U.S. persons aged 18 or older may send remittances to a close relative in Cuba or to a Cuban national in a third country, provided that no member of the household is a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party. " here

You might try the US Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Havana - they will hopefully be able to point you in the right direction is they can't help.
The U.S. Interests Section is located in Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado; telephone numbers (537) 833-3551 through 833-3559. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
posted by quadrilaterals at 11:12 AM on August 30, 2010

How about a bank transfer? Does she have a bank account in Cuba? It sounds like you have a way of talking to her, right? So find out if she has a bank account, and then go to your bank and do an international transfer. (Okay, maybe your bank won't let you, but it's worth checking with your bank.)
posted by bluedaisy at 11:13 AM on August 30, 2010

Can you not submit a payment online through your bank to the person? Most banks have online payment available.
posted by TheBones at 11:14 AM on August 30, 2010

"U.S. persons aged 18 or older may send remittances to a close relative in Cuba or to a Cuban national in a third country, provided that no member of the household is a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party. "

Depending on how you read this, it seems to be focused on transfers to Cubans. Why would I be restricted from sending money to non-Cuban nationals in Cuba? I can understand why the US would control me sending money to Cuban nationals in or out of Cuba.

Forgive my cynicism, but I doubt that the US interests section of the Swiss embassy in Havana is going to be very helpful to a sickly uneducated African woman, but I suppose I could advise her to do that.
posted by Jeebu at 11:31 AM on August 30, 2010

In retrospect, it might have been easier for her family to send it directly, given the legal restrictions surrounding US-Cuba stuff.

You could try talking to the Ugandan consulate in NYC (or perhaps the Ugandan embassy in DC) to see if someone knows how the mission in Havana handles consular services to Ugandan citizens in Cuba. That's the semi-official sidestep of Helms-Burton and the embargo; the unofficial route would be to use a service like Duales or one of the other rechargeable debit cards, but caveat emptor.
posted by holgate at 11:50 AM on August 30, 2010

I'm guessing this would be much easier in almost any country other than the US. Do you have any canadian or european friends who could pass this money on for you?
posted by kickingtheground at 12:06 PM on August 30, 2010

I was just about to suggest kickingtheground's idea. Even someone you know who's just traveling abroad right now could totally spend ten minutes at a bank/Western Union office or something for you.

How will she access the money once there?
posted by mdonley at 12:28 PM on August 30, 2010

It sounded odd to me that she couldn't have the money sent from Uganda, but I figured she had looked in it.

The Ugandan consulate didn't have much to say about it. My bank says they can do a wire transfer to an account in Cuba, but it's kind of expensive and I'm not sure about the account on her end.

So far I like kickingtheground's suggestion.

I'm not sure how she'll access the money. It depends on how I send it, right? Ultimately, that's part of my question.
posted by Jeebu at 12:39 PM on August 30, 2010

FWIW, I checked Western Union's website, and even from Canada, it only shows me as being able to send money to the US military base in Cuba, not to Cuba proper.

Moneygram didn't show Cuba as an option at all. Nor did my bank's international money transfer page on their online banking site.

So, even if you could find a Canadian who would willingly do this for you, it might not be as easy as sending money elsewhere.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:16 PM on August 30, 2010

Yeah, I did the same checks as jacquilynne and deleted a sentence about finding someone in Canada/Mexico to be a third party.

Judging from the Wikitravel site, you're going to be hitting a legislative/administrative minefield if you go through anywhere that has official business activity in the US, which is why the rechargeable debit card providers are probably the simplest option, in the absence of informal methods of getting the money across, even if there's an understandable hint of sketchiness to them.
posted by holgate at 4:13 PM on August 30, 2010

In the mean time, she sent me an email that said she had gone to the Western Union office in Cuba, and they told her that she CAN receive money from the US.

I don't know what to think anymore.

She also gave me the name of a Cuban friend. How bad an idea would it be to claim some random Cuban woman as a relative? That doesn't seem like such a good idea.
posted by Jeebu at 6:43 PM on August 30, 2010

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