Western Union to close in Cuba following new US sanctions

US-based money transfer company Western Union will close its offices in Cuba following new sanctions from Washington which prevent it from working with Fincimex, a financial company run by the island’s military, Havana said Tuesday.

The firm will close its “407 agencies located throughout the country because of these brutal provisions,” Fincimex said in a statement posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.

It added that the sanctions, which came “in the midst of the pandemic, underscore the cynicism, contempt for the Cuban people and opportunism of the US government.”

The measures, which were announced Friday, are due to go into effect on November 27.

Western Union told AFP it hoped to “continue to provide essential money transfer services to customers” and that it was “working to adapt to new rules and regulations concerning Cuba,” adding that it would make an announcement on the matter soon.

In the meantime, it said, money transfers would “remain operational” and American customers would be able to send money “directly to family members in Cuba from our branches or via the internet… so that it goes to our more than 400 agencies” across the island.

Many Cubans receive valuable daily support in the form of remittances — money sent from abroad to relatives back home. 

In 2017, an estimated $3.8 billion in remittances was sent to the island, according to economist Carlos Mesa-Lago.

The embargo the United States has maintained on Cuba since 1962 has become more stringent lately, complicating money transfers to Cuba. 

More and more banks are refusing to conduct transactions with the island for fear of sanctions, which have recently targeted Cuban companies dealing with remittances.

“The remittances to families in Cuba have been continuously politicized by the Cuban extreme-right,” Fincimex said Tuesday. “And since September 2019, the US government has applied coercive measures to restrict the flow of these remittances.”

To secure a second term, US President Donald Trump needs to win Florida, where his Republican base includes many Cuban Americans who are intensely opposed to the communist state set up by Fidel Castro.

After a historic rapprochement in 2014 under then US president Barack Obama, Cuba and the United States have seen their relations become more strained.