14ymedio, Havana, December 26, 2019 — Clients who have dollar accounts, which were announced with great fanfare this past October, have to wait several days to withdraw their dollars from the banks “in accordance with existing availability,” according to an announcement by the Central Bank of Cuba in the official press.
“The bank is not establishing limits for the withdrawal of cash; the amount will depend on the balance that exists in the account,” says the notice. It states that “it is not possible for the banks to pre-establish an exact date when the requested U.S. dollars can be delivered.” These limitations are also applied to other forms of hard currency associated with debit cards, like the euro, the Canadian dollar or the Mexican peso.
“Because no money is being released by the Central Bank of Cuba, availability in bank branches may vary.” However, “the bank will always try to respond to requests in the least amount of time possible,” the information says, which comes in the middle of an increase in complaints about how hard it is to withdraw cash.
For months, this problem has affected the bank accounts in hard currency that existed in the country before the opening of the new chain of shops in foreign money. Many Cubans deposited this money, fundamentally, to meet the conditions of the the consulates of several countries, which require Cubans to be able to show a bank account with hard currency in order to apply for a visa, with the amounts required varying from country to country.
But since the middle of October, and with the opening of dollar accounts associated with debit cards to use in the new hard currency shops, the difficulty of withdrawing the money, known as fulas in popular slang, has increased. This has been accompanied by an increase in the informal market of U.S. dollars due to the uncertainty that surrounds the convertible peso (CUC).
On the black market, where transactions between individuals take place, a dollar can buy 1.20 CUC, much more than the 0.95 rate that it had at the beginning of the year. The rise has motivated many clients to take their dollars out of the bank and resell them on the informal networks where they can get CUCs to resell to tourists from countries like Panama or the U.S.
Hard-currency accounts can be opened without making an initial deposit and don’t have a minimum balance requirement. They don’t earn interest nor charge a commission, explain the employees of the Central Bank. “It’s a method of payment issued by the Cuban banks, which gives them access to purchases in the authrorized stores for the sale of merchandise in U.S. dollars.”
In addition to being used in the hard currency shops, the debit cards associated with these accounts can also be used in the convertible peso shops or to take money out of the ATMs in convertible pesos or Cuban pesos.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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