14ymedio, Havana, 13 November 2020 — On Friday, Western Union announced it will no longer provide remittance services in Cuba as of November 23 after the island’s government rejected a proposal that would have allowed the US-based to comply with American regulations governing its transactions with Fincimex*.
The deadline for sending money from the United States to Cuba will be November 22, 11:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. According to the announcement the deadline for collecting money at Western Union offices in Cuba will be November 23, 6:00 PM Cuban time.
“It is important that family members immediately pick up money transfers at Western Union retail locations in Cuba. If a recipient does not finalize a transfer transaction to Cuba, you may request a full refund at any time through your original method of payment,” states the company.
These deadlines will allow the remittance giant to “pay transfers to their recipients in Cuba before the United States government’s rule takes effect on November 26, 2020.” The new restriction prohibits transactions with companies controlled by the Cuban security apparatus, such as Fincimex, which is only entity authorized by Havana to partner with Western Union.
The announcement states, “We know how important it is to ensure your loved ones in Cuba are cared for, and money transfer is a part of that. We regret to inform you that you have a limited time to send money to your loved ones in Cuba.”
“We have been working around the clock to explore every possible option to keep our services open between the U.S. and Cuba as we recognize this is a vital channel for our customers. The new rule, which was published on October 27, 2020, provided 30 days to implement the new restrictions. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a solution in this limited timeframe,” reads the text, which was signed by Western Union’s president, Khalid Fellahi.
The company assures customers it “will continue to explore all possible alternatives in search of a solution” though it acknowledges that, at this stage, there are no indications when the situation might be resolved.
Western Union’s announcement comes two weeks after the the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that authorizations “related to remittances in transactions involving identified entities or sub-entities on the Restricted List for Cuba will be annulled as of November 27.”
Shortly after learning of the new restriction, Fincimex issued an ambiguous statement indicating that the Western Union’s 407 offices in Cuba would close, though several company employees consulted by this newspaper said they had not not received orders to suspend operations.
In late September the U.S. State Department added American International Service (AIS), a Cuban company that issues banking cards on the island, to its Restricted List. The U.S. government defended its actions, saying that AIS, which receives and manages remittances from overseas handled by Fincimex, is controlled by the Cuban military.
Fincimex is a subsidiary of the Business Administration Group (Gaesa), which is controlled by a powerful brigadier general, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, Raúl Castro’s former son-in-law, on whom OFAC itself imposed sanctions on September 30.
*Translator’s note: A company run by the Cuban military which serves as the Cuban partner of foreign credit card companies and Western Union.
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