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Embargo victim dies, funds still frozen

A CANADIAN widow living in Cuba whose fortune was trapped in a Boston bank by the US trade embargo has died at the age of 108 without having ever gotten her money.

Mary McCarthy died on Friday in her rundown Havana mansion after failing to get treatment for respiratory problems due to a shortage of cash, according to godson and heir Elio Garcia.

"She had been suffering the embargo for 50 years," he said.

McCarthy, born in St John's, Newfoundland, in 1900, moved to Cuba in 1924 when she married her husband, a wealthy Havana-based Spanish businessman whom she had met at the Boston Opera.

She soon became a member of Cuba's high society, cofounding the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra and an orphanage for boys.

Her husband died in 1951, but she stayed in Cuba, even after the 1959 revolution when Fidel Castro took power and all in her wealthy neighborhood fled to the United States.

She was not able to touch the money her husband left her after the US imposed a trade embargo against Cuba in 1962, and had lived in near poverty for years.

In 2007, after a Canadian diplomat intervened, the US government allowed her to withdraw US$96 a month from the bank in Boston.

Garcia said McCarthy had to postpone treatment for respiratory problems when the US did not transfer extra money allowed for medical purposes in time, and she died.

"People should not have to pay for the political circumstances. This is a problem between two governments," he said of the embargo.

She died early on Friday morning and in the afternoon, two dozen friends gathered in her home, where a candle burned atop the old Steinway piano where she had given music lessons.

McCarthy, who would have been 109 on April 27, was buried next to her husband.


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