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Old 06-17-2007, 10:02 PM
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American/Canadian visiting Cuba


As some of you know, I hold dual citizenship in the U.S. and in Canada.

If I were to visit Cuba on my Canadian passport, and spending only Canadian dollars, would I be violating any U.S. laws or restrictions?
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Old 06-17-2007, 10:15 PM
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Probably not, but you can't spend Canadian dollars there. You'll have to exchange your CAD to USD, and then when you land, exchange your USD for CUCs. They have a dual currency system to rip off the tourism, and it's leveraged on the USD.

I am a U.S. citizen and was able to go to Cuba on a research Visa in March 2007. Oh Cuba doesn't except credit/ATM cards from US banks, so either bring a buttload of cash or get a Canadian credit card.
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Old 06-17-2007, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Vice
Probably not, but you can't spend Canadian dollars there. You'll have to exchange your CAD to USD, and then when you land, exchange your USD for CUCs. They have a dual currency system to rip off the tourism, and it's leveraged on the USD.

I am a U.S. citizen and was able to go to Cuba on a research Visa in March 2007. Oh Cuba doesn't except credit/ATM cards from US banks, so either bring a buttload of cash or get a Canadian credit card.
My understanding is that as a U.S. citizen, I am not allowed to spend US$ in Cuba. I would not have special permission, as you did. I would go as a Canadian tourist. Do tourists from all countries have to change their money to US$ before they arrive?
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Old 06-17-2007, 10:39 PM
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Humm... my memory is getting fuzzy already. I am looking online and it says Cuba will accept the EUR, CAD, USD , and British Pound to exchange into CUCs. Sorry for the misinformation. But more info about the CUC: the CUC isn't an internationally recognized currency... it's basically a fake currency Fidel invented to keep Cuba afloat. The exchange rate for USD is $1 = 1 CUC, plus a 20% fee. Cubans use a totally different currency, the Peso.

Cuba is aware of the embargo from the U.S. so even Americans who go there illegally - either flying through Mexico or Canada, Cuban customs won't stamp a US passport. Hell, I had a valid visa to go, and they still didn't stamp my passport. I'm assuming you are you planning to fly to Cuba from Canada? You'll be fine. You won't get in trouble, although you might be put on some sort of list anyways. If you ever get a job requiring security clearance, this could be an issue.
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Old 06-17-2007, 10:41 PM
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To sum it up, obviously the government knew I was going to spend USD there and nothing happened.
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Old 06-17-2007, 11:04 PM
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My guess is that since it's illegal for US citizens to go to Cuba without special permission, and since you ARE a US citizen, then dual nationality or no dual nationality, it would be considered breaking US law. But if you do everything through your Canadian passport and don't say anything to the US authorities about it, then no harm done even if you spend US$. "Don't ask, don't tell," so to speak.

Last edited by Siam Sam; 06-17-2007 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 06-17-2007, 11:12 PM
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I'm under the impression that unless you are traveling under the special circumstances mentioned on the State Department web site, it would be illegal, the relevant information here:

Quote:
Unless otherwise exempted or authorized, any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who engages in any travel-related transaction in Cuba violates the regulations. Failure to comply with Department of Treasury regulations may result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.
I'd interpret it as though it would be illegal for you. Americans do go, and usually enter from Canada or Mexico. It's just a hassle because they can trace your credit card transactions. If you can figure out the cash thing, go for it.
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Old 06-17-2007, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Siam Sam
My guess is that since it's illegal for US citizens to go to Cuba without special permission, and since you ARE a US citizen, then dual nationality or no dual nationality, it would be considered breaking US law.
Well, this is where I'm confused. From this site, it appears that travel to Cuba is not per se illegal by U.S. citizens. What does seem to be restricted is the spending of US$, especially as the license is controlled by the U.S. Treasury. Now, unless the Treasury can control my spending of non U.S. currencies, seems to me I'd be fine. I could be wrong, which is why I ask.

On preview, Darryl Lict beat me to the cite.
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Old 06-17-2007, 11:26 PM
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I'll add here that I have no intention of violating U.S. law. I don't care if I get on a list, as I will never accept a government/security clearance job from either country; that could endanger my citizenship from the other. I am basically wondering if there is a loophole here.
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Old 06-17-2007, 11:29 PM
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No, I think it's illegal. IN the first paragraph there, it says:
"The Regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed to engage in any travel-related transactions related to travel to, from, and within Cuba."

Then the second paragraph starts out:
"Licenses are granted to the following categories of travelers ..." and then goes n to describe the type of person who can be "licensed" (read: "granted permission to travel there.")

I think that as long as it is illegal for you as a US citizen to travel there, then the US is not going to care that it's legal for you as a Canadian citizen to travel there; they could pop you for it. IF you let it be known. I say use your Canadian passport, keep quiet about it, and all will be well.

Last edited by Siam Sam; 06-17-2007 at 11:30 PM.
  #11  
Old 06-19-2007, 08:38 AM
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Bump. In the hopes of getting the weekday crowd's attention.
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Old 06-19-2007, 05:19 PM
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Siam Sam, the quotes you have say "travel-related transactions" (from the link in Frank's post from the state department - at the page the term "transactions" is consistently used.) I read that as saying that you can't spend money for things related to travel. Not that you can't travel there.

That's also what I've read in several travel-related sites and books ( for example this website: http://www.cubalinda.com/English/Sections/HowCubaUS.asp )

Quote:
Common belief holds that U.S. citizens and foreign residents are forbidden by law to travel to Cuba. This is not true. The applicable legislation is the Trading with the Enemy Act under which the restriction is not on travel but on the spending of money in Cuba. Of course one can practically equate the ban on spending money in Cuba to a travel ban because in normal circumstances a visitor must spend on accommodations, food and other necessities.
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Old 06-19-2007, 05:49 PM
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My friend has a dual Canadian-American citizenship and we went to Cuba together last year. The difference, though, is that she was born in the US but has lived in Canada her entire life. She was asked about it when she went through customs, but otherwise had no problems at all. We were able to get cash through our Canadian credit cards, but I very much doubt American bank/credit cards would work (in fact, I seem to remember being explicitly warned that they wouldn't!)

IIRC, the CUC isn't equal to US$ anymore... It's more like 1.12 US for 1 CUC, I think.
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Old 06-19-2007, 06:08 PM
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The other thing you can do is take 10 weeks off and enroll in the proper educational institution.

Quote:
Originally Posted by State Dept.
Specific Licenses for Educational Institutions

Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to authorize travel transactions related to certain educational activities by students or employees at U.S. undergraduate or graduate institutions. Such licenses must be renewed after a period of one year. Once an academic institution has applied for and received such a specific license, the following categories of travelers affiliated with that academic institution are authorized to engage in travel-related transactions incident to the following activities without seeking further authorization from OFAC:

Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a structured educational program lasting at least 10 weeks as part of a course offered at a U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution. Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the travel is part of an educational program of that institution.
My local Community College offers a course, and I actually seriously thought about taking it. Here's a list of programs offering and opportunity to study in Cuba. In any case, I'd like to go before relationships are normalized and avoid the hoards of American tourists. I'm pretty sure there's already tons of Euros and Canadians.
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Old 06-19-2007, 06:25 PM
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I don't see how you having Canadian citizenship matters at all. I am an American, but I could easily get Canadian Dollars in Canada and try to spend them in Cuba.
  #16  
Old 06-19-2007, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by SmackFu
I don't see how you having Canadian citizenship matters at all. I am an American, but I could easily get Canadian Dollars in Canada and try to spend them in Cuba.
Well, this is exactly where I feel as if I am dancing on the head of a pin. Yes, you could do that, but as an American citizen, I think you would be breaking the law, and could be subject to penalties upon your return. (As mentioned above, with U.S. citizens travelling from Mexico or Canada.)

If I travel as a Canadian citizen, spending only Canadian money along the way, am I liable, as a U.S. citizen, to the U.S. Treasury restrictions on "travel transactions"?

*Magic 8-Ball* the answer is unclear.

Were I willing to give up my U.S. citizenship, the answer would be clear. I have no intention of doing so. Therefore, I must obey both Canadian and U.S. law in order to not get thrown in jail at the border.
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Old 06-19-2007, 07:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank
As some of you know, I hold dual citizenship in the U.S. and in Canada.

If I were to visit Cuba on my Canadian passport, and spending only Canadian dollars, would I be violating any U.S. laws or restrictions?

Frank, as a US Citizen it is illegal for you to spend any money in Cuba. That includes Canadian currency but I don't know if it includes fake money such as Canadian Tire Money.

</sarcasm on>

However more importantly you are asking how to do something prohibited by US Law on a message board based in the US. have you checked with a moderator to see if your question goes against the board policy

</sarcasm off>
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Old 06-19-2007, 07:57 PM
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MannyL, did you miss the part where Frank said "I'll add here that I have no intention of violating U.S. law."
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Old 06-19-2007, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MannyL
Frank, as a US Citizen it is illegal for you to spend any money in Cuba.
Cite? Which, if you haven't noticed, is what I'm asking for.

Quote:
</sarcasm on>

However more importantly you are asking how to do something prohibited by US Law on a message board based in the US. have you checked with a moderator to see if your question goes against the board policy

</sarcasm off>
In fact, I am not asking how to evade U.S. law. I am asking if my proposed tourism in Cuba as a Canadian citizen is, in fact, subject to U.S. law due to my status as a U.S. citizen. Please read for comprehension in future.

Last edited by Frank; 06-19-2007 at 08:01 PM.
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Old 06-19-2007, 10:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MannyL
Frank, as a US Citizen it is illegal for you to spend any money in Cuba. That includes Canadian currency but I don't know if it includes fake money such as Canadian Tire Money.
I was recently on a trip to Cuba, under an OFAC specific license. As best I understand it, MannyL is correct -- an American citizen may NOT spend money in Cuba or do business with Cuban nationals, regardless of the currency used, except under a general license as given in the law or under an OFAC specific license. See the OFAC web site.

I strongly suggest you check with OFAC since you have dual citizenship. If you were pure Canadian, you'd have no problems.

That said, if the legalities work in your favor, take Euros. I don't know what the conversion is from the Canadian dollar to the CUC, but the US dollar loses 20% off the top, and the Euro probably doesn't.

Also, pack light - the licensed airlines that fly the Miami - Havana route have a strict 20 kg (45 lbs.) free baggage allowance.

And do NOT tell the airline what's in your luggage, especially if it's a bag full of charitable donations. It WILL be impounded. I found out the hard way.
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Old 06-19-2007, 11:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnold Winkelried
Siam Sam, the quotes you have say "travel-related transactions" (from the link in Frank's post from the state department - at the page the term "transactions" is consistently used.) I read that as saying that you can't spend money for things related to travel. Not that you can't travel there.

That's also what I've read in several travel-related sites and books ( for example this website: http://www.cubalinda.com/English/Sections/HowCubaUS.asp )
Well, that says for travel "to, from and within Cuba," so travel TO Cuba would mean, say, buying an airline ticket to fly there, which would mean you ned approval from the government.

But the website you link to does seem to indicate it's not illegal to go there. I've always been told it was, but maybe that's just been a misperception. I'd want to know for sure from the State Department before I tried to go, though.
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Old 06-20-2007, 01:58 PM
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Not an authority here, but I read an article about boaters going to Cuba, and the fact that it's legal as long as they don't spend money there. It was pointed out that most of them in fact purchase gasoline (at least), and therefore could be quite subject to scrutiny.
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Old 06-20-2007, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Scuba_Ben
Also, pack light - the licensed airlines that fly the Miami - Havana route have a strict 20 kg (45 lbs.) free baggage allowance.
This brings up a very good question: Frank, would you be going to Cuba from the United States or from Canada?

If the latter--and IIRC, there are frequent nonstop flights to Havana out of a few Canadian airports--it would seem to me that you could leave your American passport/papers with Canadian friends or family in your departure city (you know enough CanaDopers, don't you?), and travel out of a Canadian airport as a Canadian on his way to Cuba. I cannot see how you would be subject to US law if you travelled between Cuba and Canada on your Canadian passport.

If this information is useful, you can thank me with cigars when you get back to Canada.
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Old 06-20-2007, 06:34 PM
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From scuba_bens link
Quote:
To whom do these sanctions regulations apply?
All U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, all people and organizations physically in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world.
I was a study abroad student in Lat. Am in the late 90s, Cuba was a not an uncommon spring break destination for other US students (who went without any US permission) As Vice has already side, my 2nd-hand impression was that you have to be pretty careless to get caught.

Last edited by sugar and spice; 06-20-2007 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 06-20-2007, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Spoons
This brings up a very good question: Frank, would you be going to Cuba from the United States or from Canada?
From Canada, certainly.

ScubaBen's link certainly does seem to state that as a U.S. citizen, I am not allowed to spend U.S. dollars in Cuba. However, as it also states, "The basic goal of the sanctions is to isolate the Cuban government economically and deprive it of U.S. dollars," I am still not certain that the restrictions apply to me travelling as a Canadian and spending Canadian dollars.

Well, as it doesn't seem as if anyone can answer anymore certainly than I can, I'll let the subject drop, and I won't plan on touring in Cuba until (if ever) the U.S. gets over its phobia.
  #26  
Old 06-20-2007, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Frank
Well, as it doesn't seem as if anyone can answer anymore certainly than I can....
So does this mean I don't get any cigars? Damn! I'm running low on Bolivar Coronas.

::d&r::
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Old 06-20-2007, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Spoons
So does this mean I don't get any cigars? Damn! I'm running low on Bolivar Coronas.
Though I'm not a cigar smoker, my understanding is that Cuban cigars are not what they used to be.

Perhaps I should start a new thread...
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Old 06-20-2007, 08:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank
ScubaBen's link certainly does seem to state that as a U.S. citizen, I am not allowed to spend U.S. dollars in Cuba. However, as it also states, "The basic goal of the sanctions is to isolate the Cuban government economically and deprive it of U.S. dollars," I am still not certain that the restrictions apply to me travelling as a Canadian and spending Canadian dollars.
The sanction applies to permanent residents, who we presume are always traveling with a non-US passport. So if you are traveling on your non-US passport, then I don't see why you would have any more liberties from the embargo than a permenant resident. When you are enter a country on a Canadian passport, you are, after all, still a US citizen, regardless of whether or not your Cuban hosts know this fact.

IANAL, but it seems perfectly clear to me.

Last edited by sugar and spice; 06-20-2007 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 06-20-2007, 08:56 PM
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IANAL, but it seems perfectly clear to me.
True enough, and why I am (reluctantly) coming around to the majority view.
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Old 06-21-2007, 07:10 AM
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Frank, I guess it mostly comes down to whether you think (or the US g'ment thinks) that you're a person under their jurisdiction at the time of the trip.

Which is your natural born citizenship and which is your naturalized citizenship?
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Old 09-11-2019, 06:16 AM
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I'm an American citizen, with no other citizenships or residences or anything.

I traveled to Cuba in the mid-90s (and, for those who are going to get all picky about board rules, this was decades ago, and I'm not looking for advice on how to do anything illegal in the present or future).

My understanding is that, while it's not illegal to travel to Cuba in and of itself, it is illegal to spend any money at all there (i.e., to engage in a transaction).

We went to Montreal first, and purchased tickets there for the flight to Cuba (and for the return flight, of course). We made our hotel reservations (in Varadero and in Havana) through a Canadian travel agency. The Canadians were more than happy to oblige. For them, going to Cuba is just a nice winter break. And we got a bunch of dollars to take with us, since we were aware that we wouldn't be able to use our credit cards.

I don't believe that the "CUC," whatever that is, existed at the time. The only currency one could use in Cuba was the US dollar. In fact, I noticed that a popular tourist scam was for some enterprising Cuban to generously offer to exchange some hapless tourist's dollars for Cuban pesos, which were (are?) absolutely useless. Nobody would take them.

Traveling around the country required a bit of hustle. The best way (sometimes the only way) to get from one town to another was to make unofficial deals with Cuban tour guides. For a few US dollars, you could ride their buses. Very handy, and much better than the buses Cubans had to use, which were unreliable and could involve hours of waiting around for the bus to show up.

Someone noted upthread that the Cuban authorities are aware of the situation for American travelers, and are cooperative, and won't put a stamp in your passport. This was my experience. They stamped a card that was inserted into my passport. One the return trip, once we landed in Montreal, I threw it out.

Obviously I'm not encouraging you to do anything illegal. That said, I had a fantastic trip, and everyone I know who's been to Cuba had a great time.
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:19 AM
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Thread was bumped by a spammer who has since been wished away to the cornfield.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:18 AM
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Moderator Note

Thread was bumped by a spammer who has since been wished away to the cornfield.
Shouldn't that be a sugarcane field?
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:21 AM
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If you're thinking of dancing on the head of a pin - how about bringing along a non-US companion and let them handle all the transactions for you?
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Old 09-11-2019, 12:44 PM
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That actually has been done. I'm aware of one family group that went from Canada where almost everyone was Canadian, but one of the kids was dual American-Canadian. So the kid wasn't given any Cuban money and the adults in the group paid for any cash transactions for the kid, like food, souvenirs, etc.

Highly unlikely Uncle Sam will ever find out, but if the kid ever goes to the States when he's an adult and is asked by US Customs, can truthfully say he's never breached the embargo.
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Old 09-11-2019, 12:46 PM
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Of course, the OP's question is hypothetical, as Frank is no longer with us.

RIP, Frank
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Old 09-11-2019, 02:14 PM
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Here is what I was told. It is not so much that it is illegal to spend USD in Cuba, but it is illegal to spend any money, CAD, CHF, EUR in Cuba if the ultimate source of the money was the US. In my case, over 97% of my income is from Canadian sources and I assume that would make it legal for me to go there and spend money. I have never done it though.
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Old 09-11-2019, 04:08 PM
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Is the "spending money" thing still an issue with Americans?

Obama freed things up quite a bit and the most common way Americans visited Cuba was canceled by Trump in June. But that's for travel. The money thing is still okay but of course you have to pay attention to Cuba's two-currencies thing.
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Old 09-11-2019, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Of course, the OP's question is hypothetical, as Frank is no longer with us.

RIP, Frank
Uh, explain? Crossing fingers hoping for not sad news.
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Old 09-11-2019, 07:42 PM
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http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=841831
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