Western Union Expands Its Money Remittance Services to Cuba and Will Allow Digital Transfers

western union cuba

Western Union announced on Thursday that it will extend its money transfer services to Cuba through thousands of points of sale in the United States and its digital platforms. The company made this announcement in an official statement.

Last year, Western Union initiated a pilot program to resume money transfer services to Cuba after a two-year hiatus. However, these services were only available at 24 specific locations in Miami, Hialeah, and Coral Gables.

Brad S. Jones, a spokesman for the company, announced that the experiment ended in its first phase, and Western Union is expanding its “test” service to cover more than 4,400 retailers in the United States, including Puerto Rico.

WesternUnion.com and its mobile app now allow users to send money to Cubans. Transactions can be up to $2,000 (in a single movement) and can be sent to people in Cuba with debit cards or accounts at three different banks: Banco de Crédito y Comercio, Banco Popular de Ahorro, and Banco Metropolitano S.A.

Western Union has announced that it has reached an agreement with Orbit S.A., a Cuban government company authorized by the Central Bank of Cuba in February 2022 to process money transfers to the island. As a result, money will be deposited in U.S. dollars to facilitate transactions.

Jones has designated Orbit S.A. as the payment processor for Western Union bank accounts in Cuba.

Orbit S.A. announced on Facebook that it will expand its activities in the United States and partner with Western Union for shipments to the Island. The company has been processing money transfers from Canada and Europe since last year, sent through Cubamax and VaCuba, two Miami-based travel agencies.

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The U.S. embargo prohibits most financial transactions with Cuba, although remittances are usually allowed.

Embargo regulations were tightened by the Donald Trump administration to prevent any transfer of funds involving companies related to Cuba’s armed forces.

Despite the time that has passed, the regulations are still in effect. In November 2020, Western Union stopped its activities due to sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on two financial institutions, Fincimex and AIS, which were in charge of processing money transfers, due to their connections with GAESA, the business group belonging to the Cuban military.

Afterward, certain money transfer service providers in Miami established an alternative channel in collaboration with the International Financial Bank. However, the Trump administration also imposed sanctions on this bank due to its subservient relationship to GAESA.

Before Orbit S.A. began its discreet collaboration with Miami travel agencies, the Cuban government had rejected the idea of transferring the remittance business to a non-military company, despite the Joe Biden administration’s claim that this move would solve the problem.

The Cuban government and its propaganda apparatus took advantage of the closing of more than 400 Western Union branches in Cuba to highlight how U.S. sanctions affect Cuban families.

It should be remembered that remittances sent by relatives abroad are a vital source of income for many on the island.

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Although U.S. companies collaborating with Orbit S.A. were required to provide proof that the company is not under the control of the armed forces, Cuba’s independent media outlet, Proyecto Inventario, has reported that Orbit’s office in Miramar, Havana, is located next to a Fincimex office, and Fincimex employees now work for Orbit.

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