Western Union resumes remittance service to Cuba after 3-month outage

HAVANA (Reuters) – Western Union confirmed on Thursday it had resumed its remittance service from the U.S. to Cuba after the system collapsed more than three months earlier, restoring a vital lifeline for Cubans and their friends and families in the U.S.

Western Union said its services to Cuba had been disrupted since Jan. 28, forcing Cubans who depend on the company’s money transfer system to seek alternative, and often more costly, routes for receiving money.

“We understand our service is a crucial connection between those living in the U.S. and their family living in Cuba,” said Rodrigo Garcia, the president of Western Union North America and Latin America.

“We are pleased to resume service to this vital corridor and provide essential money transfer services to those living on the island.”

Western Union, among the world’s top providers of money transfer services, in February said services had collapsed due to technical issues with the processing of transactions in Cuba, and said the outage only affected the Caribbean island nation.

Neither the Cuban government nor Western Union has specified the cause of the technical issues.

Yenisley Noa, a 33-year old Havana resident, applauded the return of Western Union, which she said had worked well for residents in the past.

“Everyone is having money problems,” she said. “The best option is for the Western Union to return again.”

Western Union resumed remittances to the island in 2023, nearly three years after the Trump administration put in place sanctions that triggered a halt in service.

Remittances are a crucial source of income for Cuban families, but the need has become even more acute of late amid a severe economic crisis resulting from tighter U.S. sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemic and a floundering tourism sector.

Studies show that almost 70% of the Cuban population receives remittances in varying forms, according to a 2023 report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), though there are no official figures available from the Cuban government.

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood; additional reporting by Anett Rios, Editing by Paul Simao and Aurora Ellis)