Western Union Reopens Remittance Services To Cuba
Western Union, one of the leading international money transfer companies, has fully restored its service to Cuba. “Send Money to Cuba Again,” the company now advertises on the Internet. “Cuba is open for business. Easily send money online to Cuba with Western Union.” The company announced the changes on March 2nd.
Western Union was a leading provider of money wire services for Cuban-Americans to transmit billions of dollars in remittances to relatives on the island, until the U.S. government forced the company to curtail its Cuba operations in November 2020. At the time, Western Union was forced to close 407 outlets in Cuba due to new U.S. sanctions prohibiting commercial engagement with Cuban companies on the “Cuba Restricted List”--entities administered by the military, which included the financial offices, Fincimex, that received the money transfers. Coming at the height of the pandemic when Cuban-Americans could not travel to the island to hand-deliver cash to their relatives, the Trump administration sanctions effectively cut off a major source of external revenue to the island.
Last May, the Biden administration announced that it would lift the cap of $1,000 per quarter on remittances, and allow Western Union to renew operations in Cuba provided that the money was received by a company unaffiliated with the Cuban armed forces. A new Cuban state financial entity, Orbit S.A., is now partnered with Western Union as its “pay-out processor” in Cuba.
Western Union began a pilot program in January to transfer funds from the Miami region to a limited number of banks in Cuba. The company is now renewing services across the island and enabling wire transfers through Internet applications as well as from more than 4,000 locations across the United States.
The return of Western Union and expected increase in remittances comes as Cuba confronts an ongoing, post-pandemic, economic crisis that has resulted in widespread shortages of basic necessities, and mass migration from the island. “Western Union re-launching services in Cuba is welcome news,” Ric Herrero, executive director of the Cuba Study Group, told the Miami Herald. “The more we establish formal and secure channels to send remittances to Cuba, the more the Cuban people will benefit.”