14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 1 July 2021 — The abrupt suspension of the electronic operations of the Banco Metropolitans (Banmet), in Havana, has caused outrage among customers, who have gone to the automatic teller machines (ATM) in search of cash and have not been successful.
“I went to get money at the ATM in Ayestarán on May 19 and all three of them are out of bills. I come to the one at the Ministry of Communications and when I make the withdrawal, they deduct the balance but they do not give me the cash,” a resident tells 14ymedio from the Plaza de la Revolución municipality.
In a note issued this Wednesday, Banmet assured that “maintenance work and improvements in the technological infrastructure associated with electronic banking” would be carried out, from 9:00 pm on Saturday to 6:00 am on Sunday, July 4th. The repairs will affect the services that operate with magnetic cards issued by that bank, he said.
However, several complaints reached the 14ymedio newsroom, which on Thursday was able to verify that the interruptions in the service began much earlier than announced.
After the ATM discounted the balance of the Plaza de la Revolución customer’s magnetic card, he decided to go to the Aranguren bank to seek guidance. “When I arrive, it says on the door: ‘Closed by covid!’,” The man adds indignantly.
On the other hand, a young customer who approached the Ayestarán and Conill ATM on Thursday after trying to withdraw cash in several bank branches, gave up before the huge line that awaited him. “I’m not going to stand in that enormous line, I’m going to borrow from a friend until these people [the bank] solve the problem. This country is getting worse and worse,” he said irritably.
In a call made by this newspaper to the Banmet telephone bank to inquire if the maintenance could be extended beyond what was foreseen, an operator explained that she could not “assure anything” after 6 am next Sunday.
“Let’s hope that the service will be restored early Sunday. While the work lasts, neither ATMs nor Transfermóvil nor anything, all the cards will be temporarily disabled,” the operator said bluntly.
In recent months, Cuban banks have faced several technical problems. The Metropolitano bank, on April 6, transferred one million CUC to an account of a young businesswoman. Later in a statement, Banmet insisted that it was “an error” in a technical process “as part of the measures within the Ordering Task*.”
In that month a dozen Cubans shared the same experience on their social networks: an unexpected balance in their accounts. In at least five cases it was the same figure, one million CUC.
At the beginning of March, 14ymedio echoed a technical problem that had affected the balance of the accounts in national currency and foreign currency of the customers of Banco de Crédito y Comercio (Bandec) and Banco Popular de Ahorro (BPA), which operate Transfermóvil and EnZona applications in various provinces of the country.
On that occasion, several users reported having lost part of their savings, while others received surprising amounts of money. The official response was a brief message on Twitter that alluded to “some difficulties” in the network payment services due to “technical problems” in the Transfermóvil app.
The alternative to the ATM, could be the window of the bank branch. In Havana there are 90 branches of the Banco Metropolitano, but with the peak of COVID-19 infections, this service and the hours have been reduced. In addition, on weekends most of these stores are closed, which causes more lines in front of ATMs.
*Translator’s note: The so-called ‘Ordering Task’ (Tarea ordenamiento) is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others.
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