14ymedio, Havana, 2 March 2023 — The U.S. company Western Union announced on Thursday that it is now possible to send remittances to Cuba from any of its U.S. offices. The company, which had carried out a pilot test of transfers to the Island only from Florida, will use the payment channels of the Cuban agency Orbit S.A., which means that Cubans will receive their money in freely convertible currency (MLC) directly in their bank account.
Western Union had launched a test phase last January 4, to evaluate the possibility of extending transactions to the Island from the entire United States. With the mediation of Orbit — an agency based in Havana that allows the Cuban Government to audit remittances and transform them into MLC — Cubans will receive the amount sent loaded onto the currency cards of Banco Popular de Ahorro, Banco de Crédito y Comercio and Banco Metropolitano.
The brief note published in this regard by the official press assures that Orbit “will keep the population informed about the official channels that it is incorporating into its management.”
According to Cubadebate, Orbit successfully managed remittances from Europe and Canada. It clarifies that Western Union transfers are a “legitimate activity” that has been working for Cuba since 1995. It was stopped when Donald Trump sanctioned the processors Fincimex and AIS for their links with Gaesa, the Cuban military conglomerate then led by Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, Raúl Castro’s son-in-law, who died in 2022.
With the flexibility of the Biden Administration for sending remittances, the company activated its pilot test from supermarkets, pharmacies, small shops, cafes, telephone stores and travel agencies in 65 locations in Florida.
At the beginning of 2023, the president of the North American division of Western Union, Gabriella Fitzgerald, announced “with great pleasure” the reestablishment of service and stated that the funds could arrive on the Island the same day if they were sent before noon.
The readers of Cubadebate found the announcement of Orbit and Western Union ambiguous and demanded more details from both companies. It’s “the same as now,” a reader said with disappointment, alluding to the fact that the cash deposited in the United States would be transformed into MLC as soon as it reached the Island’s bank accounts.
The announcement has also raised suspicions about the usefulness of receiving money in MLC, when stores where that only take payment through the cards face a growing shortage of products.
“The information must be more complete,” demanded the readers, who are also not satisfied with the fact that the cash dollar does not reach Cuban households, as was done in the past. Others, mockingly, affirmed that the news “does not give or take anything away from Cubans, on the contrary.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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