The Cuban government does not allow citizens who emigrate to vote or invest on the island, but it will now let them open accounts on the island’s banks in US dollars.
The measure is an attempt to attract much needed foreign currency into the country when the coronavirus pandemic has shut down tourism and plunged the economy into a new low. And a little-known exception included in the US embargo tied to lawful travel to Cuba might allow it, although the answer is not straightforward.
A government resolution published in the island’s Official Gazette last week allows “natural persons” to open dollar accounts at various banks.
The resolution repeals a similar one published in October last year that only referred to “natural persons residing in the country.” The expands the possibility of opening accounts in foreign currency to non-residents.
The resolution does not clarify whether non-Cuban citizens who do not live on the island would also have that same opportunity, but neither does it exclude them.
The accounts are linked to cards that can be used at dollar stores since October, but so far, they only sell home appliances. This might change soon since the new resolution also leaves open the possibility for other government stores to sell in dollars.
The dollar accounts can also be used to import home appliances, auto parts and hardware from abroad through state companies.
The accounts can receive money in various foreign currencies, but the government imposes a 10 percent tax if US dollars are deposited in cash.
The new regulation caters to Cuban emigres who want to help their families on the island.