Western Union Closes Its Offices in Cuba, Ending Remittances

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Photo courtesy of theguardian.com

In desperation to make as many disasters as possible before leaving the White House, Donald Trump and his administration have decided to deliver the coup de grâce to the Cuban economy.

According to the Associated Press, Western Union has closed its 407 locations across the island of Cuba on Monday, a move prompted by U.S. government sanctions that will leave thousands of people without remittances.

After more than 20 years of operation on the island, the Trump administration’s “barrage” of sanctions will force Cubans to use less reliable ways to attract the money, the AP said.

“The problem is not the closure of Western Union, but that Western Union is practically the only U.S.-to-Cuba provider of remittance payments,” said Manuel Orozco, director of the Center for Migration and Economic Stabilization at Creative Associates International, a development-oriented advisory firm in Washington, D.C. “The impact will be felt.”

The administration’s decision appears to have been framed by President Trump’s re-election campaign efforts to court the mass of Cuban voters in Florida, which will have catastrophic consequences for the island’s residents.

While Cuba does not publish figures on the influence of remittances on its economy, experts estimate that it receives thousands of dollars a year. Orozco said that approximately half of that comes from the United States, and 20% of the overall total comes through Western Union.

Family and friends abroad can continue to use other banks, agencies, and small informal businesses to send money to people in Cuba or transmit it through visitors who travel to the island through Havana’s airport, which reopened this month. They have even used cryptography, said Cuban economist Omar Everleny Perez.

Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, said Monday that closures are the safest way to send money to Cuba for those who cannot frequently travel to the island or do not want to depend on third parties.

The Trump administration has taken over 200 measures against Cuba in recent years, including limiting travel, banning visits to cruise ships, and limiting remittances to $1,000 per person per quarter.


With information from the Associated Press.