14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 19 October 19, 2022 — “It’s not worth going to the ATMs in the small banks; you can only find money in the most central,” observes Pedro Luis, a 62-year-old Havanan who travelled to several municipalities of Havana this Tuesday trying to withdraw cash from his bank account. “In the end I could only do it on on Obispo Street, because it’s in a tourist area.”
The shortage of cash jeopardizes any daily operation in Havana. From paying in a cafeteria to paying for service at a beauty salon, people are hindered by the lack of money. “You have to leave early to stand in line at the ATMs and wait for them to be supplied when the banks open, but already by noon most are empty.”
In the bank on Conill Street, very close to Ayestarán Avenue, an employee blames the problem on the fact that “the prices of everything have gone up, and now people need more money to pay.” In the small branch, located in an area where “not many people pass,” cash barely lasts a few hours in the morning. “People from Diez de Octubre, Rancho Boyeros and even Lisa come here to try to use the ATMs.”
But this Tuesday, frustration was painted on the face of those who approached this bank because “before ten in the morning we had already exhausted the cash at the ATM, although certain small amounts could still be extracted,” says the branch worker. “The problem is that the name on the debit card must match that of the identity card, and there are many people who get cash from the ATMs with someone else’s card.”
“The bills that run out faster are the 50 and 100 pesos; sometimes the cash can be subtracted from a 500-peso bill, but the ATMs reject the operation if it includes different denominations,” he explains to this newspaper. “Also customers are now looking for more cash at once so they won’t have to stand in line several times a week, and this has made demand skyrocket.”
“Soon we’ll have to go out with a wheelbarrow to carry the money that is needed in a single day because so many pieces of paper won’t fit in our wallets,” says a young woman in line at the ATM in the basement of the Ministry of Transport in Plaza de la Revolución municipality. “Cash evaporates like water, and the 10 and 20 bills are almost useless because nothing is that cheap.”
To overcome the difficulties, some private businesses offer the customer the possibility of paying by Transfermovil, the application that allows both the payment of a electricity bill and making transfers to another client. “Many people prefer to do it this way because it saves them from having to stand in line at the bank,” says Rodniel, an employee in a restaurant on San Lázaro Street. “Our clientele is mostly young, and at their age the use of Transfermovil is very widespread.”
In some hotels, the rule has been extended so that you can only pay with magnetic cards, which can be in Cuban pesos, freely convertible currency or belong to a foreign bank. “We don’t work with cash,” clarifies an employee of the cafeteria of the recently opened Grand Aston hotel on the Havana coast. Some customers, when they pay their bill, add a tip in CUP for the waiters.
“I walked all over Línea Street, from the tunnel near Playa, and I didn’t find a single ATM with money. In the end I ended up at the bank on 23 and J, which, as it is so central, had cash but, of course, I had to stand in line for more than an hour,” regretted another customer on Tuesday night. He had to delay his dinner in a restaurant because “they only accept payment in cash.” By the time he finally managed to make the withdrawal, it was already after ten, and the romantic moment with his girlfriend had faded.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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