14ymedio, Havana, 10 June 2022 — The resolution of the Central Bank of Cuba, in force since this Friday, which prevents consulates on the island from converting their accounts in pesos into foreign currency has caused, from the outset, the paralysis of consular services in several diplomatic headquarters.
The Panamanian Embassy, which has seen a great influx since last March when the country made the transit visa mandatory for Cubans, announced this Thursday the “temporary” suspension of several procedures, which do not include, in any case, the emergency services and the request or renewal of passports for Panamanians.
The diplomatic headquarters clarifies in its brief statement that “it will continue to deliver and stamp visas for people whose transit or tourist visas have already been requested and approved, and were paid for before the measure.”
The service will be resumed, it assures, “once the Panamanian Consulate in Cuba can set up new payment mechanisms.”
In the same way, the Embassy of Brazil also reported a pause in its services, something that the Embassy of Mexico also did two days ago, for which the Central Bank’s resolution was revealed.
All consulates with a presence in Cuba, in short, have to rethink how to charge for the procedures they carry out.
According to the resolution, approved on June 2, which willgo in effect on June 10, embassies must choose in which currency they charge for their procedures, which can be in pesos or in freely convertible currency (MLC). In the event that they choose this second option, their current accounts in pesos will be totally or partially converted to MLC, at the current exchange rate on the day the operation is carried out.
At the Consulate of Mexico, an official reported this same day at the doors of the diplomatic headquarters, located on the corner of 12th and 7th streets, in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar, from now on you can only pay well with cards in freely convertible currency (MLC) issued by Cuban banks, either with Visa or Mastercard cards.
Dozens of people who already had an appointment for procedures at that consulate gathered this Friday morning, as the diplomatic headquarters warned, to “receive instructions.” The official suggested official explanations by saying that “this could be due to the limitations that Cuba has to manage dollars due to the US embargo.” She without much conviction, because she, at the same time, confessed that the new measures, of which they learned just three days ago, have been a surprise to them.
Some of those who hoped to reschedule their appointment with the new payment method, asked if they could pay with a card that did not have their name or that, directly, did not have an engraved name. The woman, after a few turns, concluded: “Whoever has the card’s PIN can pay with it.”
In a telephone call from this newspaper to the Chilean embassy in Havana, they reported that the procedures will be paid “only in dollars” after the resolution of the Central Bank. In Canada, they said that payment is “by Visa and Mastercard.”
If the embassies wish to continue operating in Cuban pesos, the favorite option of citizens, who more easily have the national currency, deposits can only be made in that currency and they will not be able to make transfers to MLC accounts or transfer funds abroad.
In embassies and consulates, in addition, cash payments of foreign currency will be accepted, except for the dollar, if authorized. In these cases, the resolution states, the bank credits the account in Cuban pesos by applying the exchange rate in force on the day of the operation.
It is also planned that legal entities that have accounts with a liquidity letter and make payments in MLC must attach said letter when making them, while if they do so in pesos, they are exempt.
The news came out two days ago, from a notice on networks from the Mexican embassy, and immediately caused the annoyance of some Cubans, who denounced that they are going to force them to pay for visas and other procedures in foreign currency, one more step in the Cuban Government’s effort, forced to raise foreign exchange in the midst of a desperate economic situation.
Even before the new resolution entered into force, several consulates had already implemented the ability to pay for a visa not only in Cuban pesos but also in its equivalent in foreign currency according to the official rate. In other cases, such as the Colombian or United States consulate, there was also the ability to make the the payment online, an option that many applicants with relatives abroad take advantage of.
Other consulates do not accept payment in cash and require that the person processing the visa deposit the money in a branch of the Banco Financiero Internacional, a requirement that complicates the process due to the few offices that this bank has in Havana and the long lines outside of them formed by travelers seeking to complete this procedure.
The new regulations can further fuel the informal business of lending a Visa or Mastercard to make purchases in stores in MLC or pay for various procedures, such as antigen tests for travel that are carried out in international clinics. These services are used by those who want to avoid the long lines at the free polyclinics.
“I am selling the right to use my Visa card, for every dollar spent you pay me 107 CUP. I have a car, so I pick you up at home and take you to the market or to the embassy where you have to pay,” reads an advertisement published on various classified ad sites. “I can also make purchases online for you, such as bus tickets at Viazul or food from a home delivery portal.”
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