Western Union allows cash transfers to Cuba

GraceKennedy vice president Michael McNaughton

People in Cayman can now transfer cash to Cuba, officials with Western Union and GraceKennedy Money Services announced Thursday.

Western Union restarted services in Cayman in November in a new deal with the GraceKennedy Group and Scotiabank. The popular cash-transfer service closed suddenly last summer when Fidelity Bank decided to pull out of the business.

The new Cuba service means that anyone in Cayman will be able to send money to the country that has been under trade embargoes for decades.

Andre Largie, with Western Union, said regulatory changes and thawing relations between the Communist state and Western governments made the new deal possible.

“This represents a powerful catalyst for empowerment and innovation. Our current movement of remittances from the U.S. to Cuba funds regular expenses and micro businesses, driving entrepreneurism, innovation and employment opportunities,” he said.

According to the Economics and Statistics Office’s most recent estimates, there are more than 1,300 people from Cuba in Cayman. The remittances will be allowed for family expenses and, according to Western Union, “personal support for private economic activity.”

GraceKennedy and Western Union also announced a new, cheaper way to send money with a next-day service. The new remittance service takes 24 hours, instead of minutes, to cross borders. The faster system will remain an option for its customers, the company said.

According to the company, the new Western Union product cuts the cost in half for transfers to Jamaica and gives a 25 percent discount for sending remittances to any other country.

Last year, workers in Cayman sent almost $170 million overseas as remittances. Most of that, more than $101 million, went to Jamaica.