Cuba will soon close its Western Union offices following new sanctions from the United States which prevent it from working with Fincimex, a financial company run by the island’s military, Havana announced Tuesday.
This is a huge blow for Cubans who rely on remittances from relatives and support groups abroad just to afford basics. The measures will go into effect on Nov. 27.
Western Union will close its “407 agencies located throughout the country because of these brutal provisions,” Fincimex said in a statement.
It added that the sanctions, which came “in the midst of the pandemic, underscore the cynicism, contempt for the Cuban people and opportunism of the US government.”
Western Union said it hopes to “continue to provide essential money transfer services to customers” and that it is “working to adapt to new rules and regulations concerning Cuba,” adding that it will make an announcement on the matter soon.
In the meantime, it said, money transfers would “remain operational” and American customers would be able to send money “directly to family members in Cuba from our branches or via the internet… so that it goes to our more than 400 agencies” across the island.
In 2017, an estimated $3.8 billion in remittances was sent to the island, according to economist Carlos Mesa-Lago. The embargo the US has maintained on Cuba since 1962 has become more stringent lately, complicating money transfers to Cuba.
To secure a second term, US President Donald Trump needs to win Florida, where his Republican base includes many Cuban Americans who are intensely opposed to the communist state set up by the late Fidel Castro.
After a historic rapprochement in 2014 under then US president Barack Obama, relations between Cuba and the US have become more strained.
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