14ymedio, Ricardo Fernández, Camagüey, 20 February 2021 — Despite the Cuban economy’s urgent need for foreign exchange and commercial operations, one of the basic elements of the commercial chain continues to have serious problems. ATMs to withdraw cash are a headache, especially in the province, where they fail, do not have bills or cannot meet the demand.
The extraction of cash in Camagüey is limited to 34 ATMs in four of its 13 municipalities, a province where there is one device for every 22,500 inhabitants. The shortage of ATMs creates long lines, unnecessary delays and the dangerous crowds that are so ill-advised in times of pandemic.
Only the residents of Esmeraldas, Nuevitas, Florida and Camagüey have money dispensers in their territories, but they also encounter other obstacles such as the lack of low-denomination banknotes and breakages in the few that exist.
The use of magnetic cards imposed by companies and work centers as a means of payment to workers complicates the limited service. “I did not ask or choose to be given a magnetic card,” complains a state employee from Camagüey. “At the beginning when there were no ATMs, there were huge lines and now that they exist, when you have problems or they haven’t put money in, you have to return to the abusive lines.”
Another resident, while recognizing how useful money dispensers are, warns that at any time of day the lines are immense: “There are almost longer lines for ATMs than for the bank itself.”
Although paying in cash is still a very widespread practice on the Island, where 6.2 million magnetic cards were enabled as of the end of 2019, more and more retirees use this way to collect their pension. The opening of stores in freely convertible currencies (MLC) has also increased the number of nationals who resort to “money encased in a plastic.”
The alternative to the ATM, which could be the counter at the bank branch, can be another ordeal for customers. The monetary unification that began on January 1 has increased the lines in these places where defunct convertible pesos can be changed into Cuban pesos. In addition, on weekends most of these offices are closed, leading to longer lines in front of ATMs.
“When they installed the ATMs here in Nuevitas there was a little more relief but many more are needed. Only five blocks away I have one, however, there are those who live several kilometers from here, even within the same city, and have they have to travel even at night “to be able to get paid,” says the state worker.
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