14ymedio/Agencies, 10 September 2016 — Multinational financial companies took part in a luncheon Friday with Cuban officials to discuss financial transactions between the US and Cuba, reports Reuters.
At the event, organized by the Chamber of Commerce in New York City, Cuban officials again noted that despite the easing of the embargo decreed by President Barack Obama, financial institutions are afraid to face sanctions from the US Department Treasury.
“In terms of politics and diplomacy there has been great progress, but in the financial sector there is a lot of fear,” said Irma Martinez, first vice president of the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC).
Representatives from companies like Western Union, General Electric and Credit Suisse Group attended the meeting and had the opportunity to interact with Cuban officials.
“Frankly, we still see reluctance on the part of international banks in the US,” said Mark Feierstein, a senior White House official who spoke during the luncheon.
US President Barack Obama eased restrictions on financial services with Cuba earlier this year, shortly before his visit to the island. However, banks remain cautious in financial transactions with Cuba.
In October 2015, the company Credit Agricole had to pay a fine of 787 million dollars for violating sanctions against several countries, including Cuba.
So far only one bank, Stonegate, has issued US credit cards that can be used in Cuba. The Cuban government has reiterated on several occasions that due to limitations of the embargo it cannot access funding sources.
Cuban authorities have not eliminated the 10% penalty on the conversion rate of the dollar introduced in 2004 on the island. Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said last March that the surcharge will only be eliminated when Havana is sure that it can use dollars in its transactions with international banks.