Cuba Says U.S. Restrictions Will Force Western Union Offices to Close

MEXICO CITY — In the face of widening American monetary restrictions on Cuba, greater than 400 Western Union workplaces on the island will shut, Cuban authorities stated, a transfer that would severely prohibit the circulation of remittances from overseas and worsen a profound financial disaster that has led to widespread meals shortages on the island.

Fincimex, a Cuban military-controlled entity that serves as Western Union’s agent on the island, introduced the deliberate closures on Tuesday after the Trump administration took steps to prohibit the switch of cash by way of corporations related to the nation’s army.

Fincimex processes a lot of the remittance cash, billions of {dollars} a yr that make up a major a part of the Cuban economic system.

Western Union stated it was “exploring ways to comply with the new rules,” which take impact in late November, including that providers between the United States and Cuba would proceed to function for now.

Cuba’s Communist authorities might nonetheless designate different establishments with countrywide protection, like banks, to channel remittances in compliance with the brand new guidelines, analysts stated.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated the brand new restrictions had been imposed as a result of the Cuban army has taken a reduce of the remittances and “uses those funds to oppress the Cuban people and to fund Cuba’s interference in Venezuela.”

Fincimex stated the brand new rules had been politically motivated and would hurt the Cuban individuals. “Doing so in the midst of a pandemic emphasizes cynicism, contempt for the Cuban people and the opportunism of the American government,” the agency stated in a statement.

The restrictions had been the newest effort by the Trump administration in its aggressive marketing campaign to roll again the American détente with Cuba and the coverage of engagement begun by President Barack Obama.

But the timing, coming days earlier than the American presidential election, is not any coincidence, analysts stated.

The battleground state of Florida, house to a robust Cuban-American voting bloc that has traditionally tilted conservative, was a part of the Trump administration’s equation, they stated.

“This is simply electoral year politics,” stated Ted A. Henken, affiliate professor of sociology at Baruch College in New York. “There is a strong likelihood that the Cuban vote can play a role in keeping Florida in the Republican column this year.”

Mr. Henken stated this week’s strikes might have a disastrous impact on Cuba’s inhabitants.

“If the Cuban government refuses to allow some other entity, like a bank, to do this, it could be a devastating blow to everyone who lives in part or in whole on remittances, which is probably 60 percent of the population,” he stated. “This is putting a noose on the Cuban economy and accepting that it’s also around the necks of everyday Cubans.”

Emilio Morales, president of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, stated the Trump administration’s restrictions have put the onus on the Cuban authorities at a time when it was already struggling to shore up an economic system crippled by sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has introduced tourism to a grinding halt and slowed remittances.

Billions of {dollars} in remittances had been transferred to Cuba final yr, Mr. Morales stated, with a lot of the circulation passing by way of entities managed by the Cuban army and the remaining reaching Cuba by different means comparable to relations arriving by airplane and folks employed to carry in foreign money.

The association has been profitable for the Cuban army, Mr. Morales stated, making it extraordinarily reluctant to hand over management. But the newest restrictions by the Trump administration, coinciding with such a extreme financial downturn on the island, could go away the federal government with no possibility however to pry the remittances commerce out of the generals’ arms.

“If the military does not give up the remittance business to other state institutions, they will run out of oxygen, it’s that simple,” Mr. Morales stated.

“Obama tried to empower the Cuban people by opening remittances and large-scale travel,” Mr. Morales continued. “However, his administration unfortunately did not do the due diligence on how the remittance business was channeled to the island and inadvertently put billions of dollars a year into the hands of the Cuban military leadership that in reality never ended up in the hands of its true owners, the people of Cuba.”

Frances Robles contributed reporting.

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