14ymedio, Havana, 14 June 2021 — Residents of Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood had been wondering why Cadeca, the state-run currency exchange agency, would be opening a new office in their area. They got their answer this weekend: the company will now be processing taxes and payments to retirees.
“All of us were surprised they would open an office here given the reduction in currency exchanges, especially now that they won’t be accepting dollars,” said one Plaza of the Revolution resident who lives near the corner of Tulipan and Estancia streets, where the office will be located.
A Cadeca employee told 14ymedio that, although the office is not yet operational, it will be processing payments to retirees, handling procedures for the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) and servicing customers with bank debit cards who prefer not to withdraw their cash from an ATM.
This information echoes a statement the president of Cadeca, Joaquin Alonso Vazquez, made on Sunday to the official press, in which he said the company was diversifying its retail services after the government announced that customers would no longer be allowed to deposit U.S. banknotes in their accounts.
Alonso Vazquez indicated that, although he foresees a shift in the retail sector to other foreign currencies, the company was diversifying the range of services it provides. These involve “operational capabilities and alliances” with ONAT, the banking and postal systems, utility companies that provide electricity, water and mobile phone services, the credit card company Fincimex and the oil company Cuba Petroleo, “to offer their services through Cadeca offices.”
Alonso Vazquez stated that sales are high at stores that sell goods or services for Cuban pesos so the company is setting up operations, known as third-party deposits, with state-owned businesses to confirm customers’ bank accounts.
The only service he did not mention was the sale of pre-paid gasoline cards, which are currently not available in all provinces.
In late May the government suspended the operations of currency exchange bureaus at the country’s international airports, claiming it had run out of cash. Executives at Cadeca said that they had been operating within established limits despite a “significant shortage” of hard currency but had to shut down due to a “lack of liquidity” which had reached an “extremely unsustainable level.”
Only two weeks ago, on June 10, authorities announced they would temporarily stop accepting cash bank deposits in dollars, blaming tighter U.S. sanctions imposed as part of the ongoing U.S economic embargo, which prevent the country’s central bank from using dollars it collects in Cuba overseas.
Cadeca offices became an essential feature of Cuban life in the 1990s when use of the dollar became widespread throughout the country. The company opened branches in major cities, tourist destinations and neighborhoods. Their importance has diminished in recent years, however, especially with the unification of the Cuban peso (CUP) with the Cuban convertible peso (CUC), which is being taken out of circulation.
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