After an interruption of more than two years, Western Union has quietly resumed quietly and, on a trial basis, its remittance services from the United States to Cuba.
Gabriella Fitzgerald, president of Western Union’s North American division, stated, “It is with great pleasure that we announce the resumption of our Cuba operations with an initial trial phase of outbound service from the United States.”
However, the company noted that the service is only available in some locations in the city of Miami.
At this time, the company allows customers to send money to Cuba using debit cards or bank accounts only from some Miami locations.
The Miami Herald newspaper has published a list of establishments where the service is available, although this information has not been officially confirmed by the company.
These branches include Navarro, Sedanos, La Fama Supermarkets, Éxito Supermarkets, Mundo Comunicatel, Price Choice Foodmarket, J&R Century and Florida Check Cashing.
The recipients of these transfers must have an account in three specific banks: Banco Popular de Ahorro, Banco Metropolitano S.A. and Banco de Crédito y Comercio.
The maximum limit per transaction is US$2,000, which will be deposited in Cuba as MLC (a kind of digital dollar). Western Union plans to expand its offering in the near future.
Fees for using this service vary depending on the amount of money sent and whether the customer uses a retail store or a digital platform.
Recipients can access the money sent the same day if the transfer is made before noon.
Previously, only the VaCuba agency was authorized to make remittances through the service of Cuba’s Orbit S.A. company.
Remittances are the second source of income for Cuba, second only to the sale of medical services and even ahead of income from tourism.
Western Union discontinued its operations on the island in November 2020 as part of unilateral measures announced by the administration of then-President Donald Trump.
During his term, Trump implemented a policy of maximum pressure against Cuba, tightening existing sanctions by signing 243 additional measures.
However, on May 16, 2021, the State Department announced the easing of some of these Trump measures, which according to the Cuban government, were “a limited step in the right direction.”
These announcements included the reinstatement of the Family Reunification Program and the intention to process the 20,000 annual visas committed to in the bilateral migration agreements.
Professional and educational contacts were also authorized, as well as the re-establishment of flights to the provinces and remittances.
However, these measures did not modify the blockade in any way, nor did they eliminate the main economic encirclement measures taken by Trump, such as the lists of restricted entities, nor did they eliminate the travel bans on Americans.
In addition, Cuba’s inclusion on the State Department’s list of countries that are alleged sponsors of terrorism, which continues to be one of the main obstacles to the island’s commercial and financial transactions in many parts of the world, was not reversed.
On January 4, the process of family reunification program procedures through the U.S. embassy in Havana began again, and flights to other Cuban provinces were also re-established.