A Cuban professor of journalism at Harvard on a Nieman fellowship had her Bank of America account application canceled as a result of the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba, the New York Times reported Friday.
Elaine Diaz, a professor of journalism at the University of Havana, is the first Cuban to receive a Niemen fellowship at Harvard as an international journalist. When she arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts and tried to open a bank account, the Bank of America initially said she could open an account, but later notified her that it could not complete the application.
In a letter the bank said, “Our records indicate that you are a citizen of Cuba, a country that is the subject of comprehensive economic sanctions.”
The bank then made it clear that it could only do business with her if she was immigrating to the U.S. and not just on a temporary visa.
Official U.S. policy says that financial transactions related to educational and professional exchanges with Cubans are permitted, but many banks still choose not to do business with Cubans. Some visiting scholars from Cuba have had their accounts frozen. Last year, M&T Bank dropped a Cuban client who was with the Cuba diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C.
These educational exchanges have been increasing under the Obama administration as a way to build bridges between Cuba and United States, but the 52-year old U.S. blockade on Cuba makes visiting the U.S. onerous for Cuban citizens.
U.S. president John F. Kennedy imposed the blockade on Cuba in 1962 saying, “The loss of this income will reduce the capacity of the Castro regime … to engage in acts of aggression, subversion, or other activities endangering the security of the United States and other nations of the hemisphere.” It has become the world’s longest running economic blockade. Critics point out that it is also the least successful trade embargo ever.
The embargo has been denounced by the United Nations General Assembly for 23 years in a row, and has recently also impacted the Caribbean island’s Ebola mission.