Western Union to Shut Down Cuba Operations Nov. 23rd

By Circles Robinson

Foto: diariodelasamericas.com

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban financial entity Fincimex announced today that operations of Western Union in Cuba will end on November 23rd. The date was agreed upon by the two companies, reported the government website Cubadebate.cu.

The largest receiver of family remittances in Cuba will close its 407 pay spots because the US Treasury sanctioned Fincimex. The Trump administration is trying to keep money from going to the corporations, like Fincimex, belonging to the Cuban military. Treasury said the prohibition would take effect as of November 27th.

Western Union has operated in Cuba for 20 years in conjunction with Fincimex.  People send dollars which go to the military corporation while receivers get the devalued CUC currency. 

The Cuban government does not sell dollars to the public. But Cubans need dollars to deposit on bank cards that allow them to shop at the dollar stores. They can either get their account/cards replenished from abroad or they can buy dollars illegally and deposit them.

They can also receive dollars in cash from visiting friends or family members or as tips or purchases.

The two Cuban currencies lose value by the day

Buying basic food and hygiene products in the two Cuban currencies (CUC & CUP) is often impossible. The government prefers to stock its dollar stores to capture that hard currency. Those unable to get dollars are flat out of luck.

The US gave Cuba a month to find a non-military entity to handle the remittances.  However, the Castro-Diaz Canel government said they would not accept such interference in their affairs. If a last minute arrangement isn’t found, it will be ordinary Cubans who will pay the price.

Joe Biden said during his campaign that he would restore Obama era liberalization of sending remittances. The new president takes office on January 20. However, his plate will be full to undo many aspects of the Trump presidency. At this time, Cuba is not expected to be near the top of the agenda.

Read more news from Cuba here.

4 thoughts on “Western Union to Shut Down Cuba Operations Nov. 23rd

  • Would it have been so terrible for Cuba if they had simply “rearranged” the Western Union relationship with the Cuban military? The Bible says “pride goeth before the fall”.

  • The elimination of Western Union kiosks that allow Cubans to receive much needed financial help is simply another Trump travesty. One United States past President who courted the Cuban vote in Florida stoops to the level of denying much needed cash for ordinary Cubans. Absolutely shameful.

    Yes, it is understandable the American government does not want American citizens to be providing remittances to their Cuban families only to have the American dollars morphed into CUC basically worthless paper money while the real American currency enters the coffers of the Cuban military.

    These Cubans who relied on a regular basis for financial help via Western Union now must seek alternative methods to receive money. Those Americans or Europeans, or Canadians who sent money via Western Union must now find alternatives avenues for their funds to reach Cubans in need.

    In Canada, one alternative is to send money via Canadian banks. There is a substantial fee for the service. The sent money is deposited into a Cuban’s bank card that allow them to shop at the dollar stores. I do not know what option is open for Americans. American banks are no doubt sanctioned by the American government not to handle financial transactions like sending money to Cuba. They may need to try a circuitous route by using Canadian banks that have branches in the United States. I do not know whether that is either permissible or would work.

    Looking into the near future of this debacle, Circles is absolutely correct when he states President elect, Joe Biden’s “… plate will be full to undo many aspects of the Trump presidency. At this time, Cuba is not expected to be near the top of the agenda.” Trump by being obstinate, stubborn, and unyielding is not helping the President elect transition into the Oval Office any time soon as is customary.

    Again, who suffers? The ordinary Cuban who needs to purchase basic necessities for existence, who needs to purchase food for survival. Once again Cubans are collateral damage, probably not the best word to use, but we all fully understand the immense suffering that will take place because of the specific elimination of the Western Union financial life line to ordinary Cuban residents whose very existence is in jeopardy.

    Let’s hope Joe Biden’s newly elected Democratic government, particularly the influence of his Vice President, will make the repealed remittance issue a top priority in her persuasion with her President.

  • When I served in Cuba with USINT 1997-1999, there was a second Western Union office – not affiliated with the current Western Union. It had somehow been severed from the original Western Union company during a merger. It had no business, although it still had an underwater cable connection with Florida which had been used during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Because it involved with free of information it was not subject to the US embargo. However, the Cuban government had blocked the company’s funds in Cuba. So to protect its employees it had for the previous 30 years continued to pay them from the blocked funds. The employees came in three days a week and read the newspapers. The only ones with real jobs were the Manager and the payroll clerk.

    The manager told me that during the Spanish-American War, the American navy cut all but one of the telegraph lines to the island. They, however, missed the Western Union line to Spain, which is how the colonial authorities and the Spanish government had continued to communicate.

    I do not know if the office is still open. It was in downtown Havana.

  • Western Union offices vertually don’t exist any longer throughout the world as 95% of $ is digital anyway.
    Just sorry that WU was the last outside contact that the Cuban people had access to for any chance to acquire hard currency.

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