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Cuba Says U.S. Restrictions Will Drive Western Union Places of work to Shut

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MEXICO CITY — Within the face of widening American monetary restrictions on Cuba, greater than 400 Western Union places of work on the island will shut, Cuban authorities mentioned, a transfer that would severely prohibit the move 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 ban the switch of cash by way of corporations related to the nation’s navy.

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

Western Union mentioned it was “exploring methods to adjust to the brand new guidelines,” which take impact in late November, including that companies between america and Cuba would proceed to function for now.

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

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the brand new restrictions have been imposed as a result of the Cuban navy has taken a lower of the remittances and “makes use of these funds to oppress the Cuban folks and to fund Cuba’s interference in Venezuela.”

Fincimex mentioned the brand new laws have been politically motivated and would hurt the Cuban folks. “Doing so within the midst of a pandemic emphasizes cynicism, contempt for the Cuban folks and the opportunism of the American authorities,” the agency mentioned in a statement.

The restrictions have been the most recent 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.

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

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

“That is merely electoral yr politics,” mentioned Ted A. Henken, affiliate professor of sociology at Baruch School in New York. “There’s a sturdy probability that the Cuban vote can play a job in holding Florida within the Republican column this yr.”

Mr. Henken mentioned this week’s strikes may have a disastrous impact on Cuba’s inhabitants.

“If the Cuban authorities refuses to permit another entity, like a financial institution, to do that, it may very well be a devastating blow to everybody who lives partly or in entire on remittances, which might be 60 p.c of the inhabitants,” he mentioned. “That is placing a noose on the Cuban economic system and accepting that it’s additionally across the necks of on a regular basis Cubans.”

Emilio Morales, president of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, mentioned 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 have been transferred to Cuba final yr, Mr. Morales mentioned, with a lot of the move passing by way of entities managed by the Cuban navy and the remaining reaching Cuba by different means resembling family members arriving by aircraft and other people employed to hold in foreign money.

The association has been profitable for the Cuban navy, Mr. Morales mentioned, making it extraordinarily reluctant to surrender management. However the newest restrictions by the Trump administration, coinciding with such a extreme financial downturn on the island, could depart the federal government with no choice however to pry the remittances commerce out of the generals’ palms.

“If the navy doesn’t quit the remittance enterprise to different state establishments, they are going to run out of oxygen, it’s that easy,” Mr. Morales mentioned.

“Obama tried to empower the Cuban folks by opening remittances and large-scale journey,” Mr. Morales continued. “Nevertheless, his administration sadly didn’t do the due diligence on how the remittance enterprise was channeled to the island and inadvertently put billions of {dollars} a yr into the palms of the Cuban navy management that in actuality by no means ended up within the palms of its true house owners, the folks of Cuba.”

Frances Robles contributed reporting.