A woman walks into a service center of Western Union for remittance in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 23, 2020. (Photo by Joaquin Hernandez/Xinhua)
by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Fe Nunez, a 56-year-old grandmother from Havana, hurried to a Western Union office Monday for a remittance worth 50 U.S. dollars her sister in Florida sent last week, only to find herself among a crowd of others like her.
Cash flow had to be speeding up for lots of Cuban families before the world's top money transfer service closed more than 400 retail outlets in Cuba following the most recent U.S. economic sanctions against the island.
"Business as usual, the U.S. government is moving on the wrong track," said Nunez, who lived with her husband in an apartment building in Lawton district. "Had they wanted to help the Cuban people they would not have taken this wrong decision."
It came after the current U.S. administration banned U.S. companies from doing businesses with Fincimex, a Cuban state-operated company that coordinates remittances for Western Union.
First proclaimed in 1962, the embargo on U.S.-Cuba trade had been intensified, also banning U.S. flights to Cuban cities except Havana, and prohibiting U.S. cruise ships and yachts from docking on the island.
Many private entrepreneurs will be affected by the U.S. decision, said Joan Manuel Veloso, who ran an eco-design workshop on the outskirts of the country's capital. "With money from remittances, private businesses will work better. Hard currencies help us buy raw materials we need."
In July, the Cuban government lifted a 10-percent tax on U.S. dollars, which had been in place since 2004, to attract more hard currency amid the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and tightened U.S. sanctions.
Remittances constitute a main hard currency source to Cuba, said Ricardo Torres, a senior researcher at Havana's Center for the Studies of the Cuban Economy. "The elimination of this channel is a hard blow to the Cuban families on both sides of the Florida Strait."
"The development of an informal hard currency market on the island is among collateral effects this situation will provoke, which makes it even more necessary to implement a mechanism to give convertibility to the national currency," Torres added.
Wiring money to other agencies and banks or sending cash with people flying to the island were some possible options Cubans were offered to receive remittances after the large closure of Western Union offices.
Iroel Sanchez, a Cuban political commentator and blogger, told Xinhua that it was a fruitless attempt for the current U.S. administration to undermine the pillars of the socialist political system in the Caribbean country.
"By all means, they are trying to block dialogue and communication between the two peoples," he said. "The U.S. administration will not succeed in its intention to defeat the Cuban Revolution by issuing these kinds of measures." Enditem