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US says it offered Cuba solution to banking woes

Published:Sunday | February 23, 2014 | 10:35 AM

WASHINGTON, February 23, CMC – The United States Department of State says it had found a “workable solution” to the banking dilemma that prompted Cuba to suspend its consular services in the US.

But the department claimed that Cuba decided not to pursue it.

“We are disappointed in this action, given that we had helped the mission identify a workable solution to its consular fee processing needs with ample time for its implementation,” said a State Department spokesperson.

“That the Cuban Interests Section has not effectively pursued this option will result in hardship to Cuban and US citizen travelers alike,” she added.

The US government has been working with the Cuban Interests Section and the Cuban mission to the United Nations since July to try to find a bank or banks that would provide services after their former bank, Buffalo, New York-based M&T, informed them it was getting out of the business of handling accounts for foreign missions, according to the Miami Herald.

Friday was the deadline that M&T gave the Cuban missions for accepting deposits of fees for visas, processing passports for Cuban citizens, authenticating documents and other consular services.

The Cuban Interests Section said that meant that it was forced to suspend consular services, except for humanitarian cases, until it found a replacement for M&T.

The State Department said while the primary responsibility to find a new bank lies with the Cuban missions, in an effort to help, it has been in touch with more than 50 financial institutions since last summer and that M&T also had tried to help the Cuban missions identify a new bank or banks.

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington blamed the suspension of consular services on a decision by its bank, M&T Bank.

The mission said that on July 12 M&T Bank advised the interests section that it would no longer handle services for foreign embassies.

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