Due to Inflation, Cubans Need More Cash and the ATMs Cannot Cope

“Actually there are nine ATMs and they are not located in all the towns but in the center of Sancti Spíritus.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Havana, 17 April 2023 — The assertion of the financial authorities of Sancti Spíritus, through the official press this Monday, that there is no shortage of cash in the banking offices comes up against, once again, the testimonies at street level, which deny that this is the case .

“I am going to be categorical in this, none of the Banco Popular de Ahorro entities has ever stopped paying salaries due to lack of money. It may be that somewhere they are supposed to pay on the 7th and have done so on the 8th, but they have been paid,” María Efigenia Caballero, director of the province’s Banco Popular de Ahorro (BPA) told the Escambray newspaper, referring to the rumor on the streets that state workers will not be able to collect their salaries due to lack of cash at ATMs.  

Ladys Mora García, a bank employee, confirmed that there have been delays in some payments and her response gives clues to the real problem. The Cuban peso is worth less and less and more money is needed, so it is necessary to place more and more cash in ATMs. “In our banks there is money, but the salary amounts are very high, you have to organize the issue of withdrawals. Before we had a discipline,  72 hours in advance the banks had the possible breakdown of the cash they needed. That’s what there is to handle it,” she added.

The same explanation flies over the entire article, which numbers the BPA ATMs in Sancti Spíritus at 11, many of them old and overexploited, but operating – they maintain – normally. This, however, according to a man from Sancti Spiritus who lives on the northern outskirts of the city and who spoke to 14ymedio, “is simply a lie”: “Actually there are nine and they are not located in all the towns but in the center. For example, I have to travel around six kilometers to get to an ATM, and it’s not always working.”

María Efigenia Caballero, deputy director of the bank in Sancti Spíritus, told Escambray that “the BPA standard is that ATMs are available 85% of the time 365 days a year and 24 hours a day” and that “the rest is to restock them, keep them on line.” Lydia, a neighbor from the center of the city, denies it: “Between the blackouts and maintenance, most of the time they are not working.”

This newspaper confirmed that, this weekend, money could not be withdrawn from ATMs in the city due to lack of cash availability. The workers of the branches affirmed in the official press this Monday that the problem occurs precisely at those times, when there is no one available to load the bills.

“Exchanging the drawer takes time and during that time they are kept out of service. And they ran out of money because people made a lot of withdrawals, like last weekend, which coincided with a holiday and with the days when salaries are paid,” the official explains.

The deputy director accepts that high denomination bills are sometimes missing, but affirms that they have never run out of money. “The withdrawal levels that are produced today due to inflation are very high for the denominations that the ATMs deliver and that causes us to have to replenish many times. This is not so complicated during working hours, but when it occurs on weekends the colleagues have to come from their homes,” she defends herself.

Another young man explains that the arguments that it is the weekend does not make much sense: “Many times you go and the ATMs do not work because there is no power, other times the lines are immense or someone’s card got stuck. The other day I took out a thousand pesos and the machine gave them to me in bills of 10. Imagine the bulk of the money and the time it takes to complete the operation.”


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