Western Union Suspends US Dollar Transfers to Cuba

The move follows the latest sanction from the Trump administration.

AccessTimeIconNov 17, 2020 at 10:45 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 10:31 a.m. UTC
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The world's largest money transfer service, Western Union, is suspending U.S. dollar transfers to Cuba following the latest sanction from the Trump administration.

The move means U.S. customers with Cuban families or friends will now have to find alternate methods of sending money back home.

“Today we informed our customers they have limited time to send money to their loved ones from the U.S. to Cuba, due to a new U.S. Government rule that will take effect on Nov. 26, 2020,” Western Union said in a blog post.

The development is a reminder of cryptocurrency’s core value proposition: Decentralized networks know no borders and are open to all comers on the sending and receiving ends (though using centralized exchanges can bring the same issues).

U.S.-Cuba relations have been rocky since the Communist regime established itself in 1959 and reached a low in 1961 at the height of the Cold War.

After several years of normalizing relations between the two nations under the Obama administration, U.S. President Donald Trump started reinstating sanctions and travel restrictions in 2017.

Local YouTube influencer Erich García Cruz told CoinDesk previously that Cubans have been circumventing these monetary restrictions by turning to cryptocurrency.

“Thousands of Cubans buy cards at Bitrefill to consume those digital services by paying with cryptocurrencies. There is no other way,” said Cruz in an August interview referring to the lightning-centric bitcoin startup.

Still, Western Union said it would "continue to explore every possible option to find a solution" for its customers despite the U.S. remittance ban, which is intended to block funds from being sent to Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or staff.

According to Western Union, customers can no longer send U.S. dollars to Cuba as of Nov. 22, while Cuban recipients cannot receive funds after Nov. 23.

The block may yet prove to be temporary, however, as U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has flagged his intention to restore former President Barack Obama's stance of friendlier relations with Cuba.

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