14ymedio, Madrid, 6 December 2023 — The Central Bank of Cuba (BCC) made official this Tuesday the use of the Russian payment system Mir, a version similar to Visa or Mastercard launched by the Kremlin in 2016 to avoid economic sanctions. The island’s ATMs had already accepted Russian cards as of last March and, in those days, the official press anticipated that by the summer Russian tourists would be able to pay with that means at tourist sites.
We are in December and, according to the statement issued by the BCC, this is still not a reality. Bank officials met this Tuesday with representatives of the Russian National Card Payment System (NSPK), Payment Services (RED SA) and Fincimex, and although they declared that “the operation of Mir cards was made official” in ATMs and point-of-sale terminals (POS), they clarified that in these “it will be implemented gradually, starting in the tourist centers,” to later extend throughout the country.
Two weeks ago, Prensa Latina reported the “technological deployment” began in Havana, Varadero and the Ciego Ávila and Camagüey keys. At the meeting this Tuesday, the delegation of officials visited the state store Casa del Café Mamá Inés, in Old Havana, where “their purchasing actions were satisfactory” with the Russian cards.
“The moment shows the good state of financial relations between both countries, which contributes to the economic development of the nation”
“The moment shows the good state of financial relations between both countries, which contributes to the economic development of the nation,” the report concludes.
Russia created the Mir system after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and two years later began issuing the cards for internal operations. In 2022, it sought to extend the use of the cards abroad after its participation in the international banking system was prohibited following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Among the nations that accept Russian cards are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Since the tightening of sanctions against Russia, Cuba has advocated the use of Mir cards and pledged to accelerate the implementation of the system. Last March, the Russian ambassador in Havana, Andréi Guskov, said that the incorporation of Mir was part of “a considerable number of financial and energy projects” agreed upon during Miguel Díaz-Canel’s tour in November 2022 .
Russian plastics, in any case, may face the same problem on the Island as Visa or Mastercard in many small private businesses: they do not even have terminals, or if they do have terminals the lack of electricity prevents their use, which forces customers to pay for the goods or services in cash.
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