On November 23, the United States officially banned remittances to Cuba through Western Union, which is also called remittance. Nearly 2 million Cuban immigrants live in the United States.
Billions of dollars of remittances are sent from the United States to Cuba every year. Western Union is the main channel for remittances from the United States and even overseas to Cuba.
In Cuba, remittances are an important source of livelihood for many local people. Interrupting remittances is equivalent to interrupting an important source of livelihood for many Cubans in the epidemic.
A restaurant owner in Havana started his business a year ago with the financial support of his relatives abroad. He told us his story.
U.S. sanctions make it difficult for Cuban private entrepreneurs to start businesses.
Significantly increase the cost of living and operating the people
Alejandro Hermila, once the manager of a state-owned restaurant in Cuba, saw the business opportunities brought by the development of tourism. He came up with the idea of opening his own restaurant.
Taking advantage of the Cuban government’s encouragement to develop the private economy, in 2019, he rented it in the old city of Havana with the support of remittances from overseas relatives. The next door-to-door room opened the way to start a business.
With a dream, the first thing he wants to do is to decorate. And almost all private economic practitioners will encounter a difficult problem: decoration materials and professional equipment are difficult to obtain in Cuba.
Due to Cuba’s industrial underdevelopment and natural resource constraints, many production and living materials are dependent on imports, and affected by the United States sanctions against Cuba, any foreign enterprise that has trade with Cuba may be subject to United States sanctions.
Alejandro Hermila, owner of a private Cuban restaurant: It is very difficult to buy professional kitchen equipment and building materials, such as these tiles, decorative lights in the hall, air conditioning systems, etc.
We have to try to obtain these goods through imports, which also makes us very expensive.
The United States cut off remittance channels, making Cubans’ livelihood difficult.
Affected by the epidemic, Havana has only gradually resumed its socio-economic activities since October this year, and Alejandro has been able to start decoration again.
After months of shutdown without income, he had to rely on remittances from overseas relatives to continue to invest in restaurants. However, the United States suspended Western Union’s remittance services to Cuba, and the main channel for Cubans to obtain remittances was cut off.
Alejandro Hermila, owner of a private Cuban restaurant: First of all, our overseas family has provided us with financial help, so that I can continue to invest in restaurants, and now we can’t get more funds.
Second, it is also important. I call it the domino effect. After my restaurant opens, if If remittances are still interrupted, the overall income level of many Cuban families will also decline, which will also indirectly affect our services and benefits for domestic and foreign tourism.
For people in countries with an average monthly income of about $30, it is not easy to do a self-employment. Private economic workers rely heavily on remittances from their relatives abroad in the early stage of starting a business. And remittances have been blocked, which deters many Cubans who want to start their own business. Alejandro told reporters that despite the difficulties, he will continue to work hard to realize his dream.
U.S. sanctions are unfair, Cubans suffer unspeakably
Under decades of sanctions in the United States, Cubans live a very difficult life. According to the statistics in 2019, the average monthly income of Cubans is about 37 U.S. dollars.
Life Cost In Cuba
Life Cost In Cuba , although some necessities such as rice, flour, eggs and milk are rationed by the government, Cuban prices are still not low for ordinary people. $1.95 for a bottle of cooking oil, $1.8 for a kilogram of chicken, $1.50 for a tin of beer, and $0.50 for a bottle of small mineral water. This is equivalent to buying 74 bottles of small mineral water and spending a Cuban people’s income for a month.
Therefore, many Cubans’ lives are still relatively tight. On the one hand, the source that can help them improve their lives is to choose to be self-employed.
Just like the protagonist Alejandro in the film just now, many people rely on part-time jobs to supplement their families. Most of these private self-employed and part-time jobs are linked to the tourism industry.
The COVID-19 epidemic has had a serious impact on the Cuban economy. According to Local statistics show that local tourism revenue decreased by 20% year-on-year from January to February 2020.
Another source of economy is remittances from overseas relatives, but now due to U.S. sanctions, many people can’t even get remittances.
The United States has continued to suppress Cuba for nearly 60 years with a sanctions stick.
Since the 1960s, the United States has suppressed Cuba for nearly 60 consecutive years.
In January 1959, the Cuban Revolution was victorious. Three months later, Fidel Castro was invited to visit the United States and met with then Vice President Nixon.
However, after that, Cuba implemented land reform and nationalization of foreign assets, and relations between Cuba and the United States deteriorated sharply.
In January 1961, the United States announced that it would sever diplomatic relations with Cuba.
How is the life of Cubans ?
How is the life of Cubans ? Three months later, in order to overthrow the Cuban revolutionary regime, 1,500 mercenaries trained and armed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency landed in the Gulf of Pigs in southern Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government, but were eventually defeated, known as the Bay of Pigs Incident.
In October 1962, then-U.S. President Kennedy signed a decree officially declaring an economic, financial and trade embargo against Cuba. It is hoped that Cuba will return to the sphere of influence of the United States due to economic collapse, regime overthrow.
In 1996, the United States passed the Helms-Burton Act, which extended the scope of the crackdown to foreign companies with economic exchanges with Cuba, and the international sanctions and embargo against Cuba reached its peak.
In order to gain the support of Cubans and impose more constraints on the anti-American left, the relationship between the United States and Cuba began to gradually “thawed” after Obama was elected president, and the United States partially relaxed its sanctions and restrictions on Cuba.
However, the door to Cuba was locked again after Trump came to power, and the relationship between the United States and Cuba plummeted.
Even after the global outbreak, the U.S. government’s sanctions against Cuba have not been relaxed at all.
The embargo and embargo make it difficult for Cuba to purchase anti-epidemic drugs and materials from the international market normally.
The Cuban government said that since 2019 alone, the United States has imposed more than 120 sanctions against Cuba, and Cuba “no area has been unharmed”.
The U.S. embargo caused Cuba to lose $5.57 billion between April 2019 and March 2020, the first time Cuba lost more than $5 billion in a year due to the United States.
Extreme pressure to stifles the economy, the United States is insidious in increasing sanctions
Since the Trump administration came to power in 2017, the relationship between the United States and Cuba has fallen to a freezing point again.
In addition to the almost complete overthrow of Obama’s policy towards Cuba under the administration, the Trump administration has also imposed unprecedented “extreme sanctions” on Cuba, constantly strengthening the extraterritorial effectiveness of relevant measures, abusing long-arm jurisdiction, making The Cuban economy has been hit hard.
How Cuban economy is hit hard ?
November 2017 The United States announced sanctions against 180 Cuban entities.
June 2019 The United States further restricts the travel of American citizens to ancient China.
December 10, 2019 U.S. flights are prohibited from Cuban cities outside Havana.
June 2020 Financial institutions that accept Western Union operations in Cuba have been sanctioned by the United States.
November 23, 2020 The United States prohibits remittances to Cuba through Western Union.
This year, the COVID-19 epidemic has spread all over the world.
At a time when the international community urgently needs to unite and cooperate to respond to the crisis, the United States has intensified financial sanctions against Cuba, reduced commercial flights between the two countries, obstructed Cuba’s access to oil, prevented Cuba from purchasing medical supplies from the United States and third countries, smeared and obstructed Cuba from carrying out medical cooperation with other countries.
Measures such as the cancellation of remittance business to Cuba have further increased the suppression of Cuba.
The three main sources of foreign exchange earning in Cuba, remittances, medical service export and tourism, have not been spared.
Carlos Arzugai, a former Cuban diplomat and expert on Cuba and the United States: The Trump administration tightened its travel policy to Cuba and cut American flights.
First, it limited the amount of remittances to Cuba, but now completely cancelled remittances to Cuba. The United States continues to tighten policies to hinder the normal operation of the Cuban government and enterprises in the international system.
These measures will work quickly while also have a “awesome” effect, which is a threat that people who thought they could trade with Cuba finally decide to give up.
Because they are at risk of sanctions, that is to say, all this series of sanctions have greatly strengthened the economic and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.
During the epidemic, the United States should have reduced sanctions against Cuba, but it did not. The sanctions did not decrease but increased, so the Cuban economy was greatly affected.
Arzugai believes that the Trump administration’s sanctions against Cuba have not decreased but increased under the epidemic.
The purpose is to further strangle the Cuban economy and bring material shortages and inconveniences to the daily life of the Cuban people under the adverse effects of the coronavirus epidemic, in order to trigger social panic and political unrest.
Carlos Arzuguei, former Cuban diplomat and expert on Cuban and the United States: The purpose of (the United States’ increased sanctions) is to prevent all kinds of resources from entering Cuba, including financial resources, that is to cut off all sources of financing for Cuba’s economic development, even the funds needed by individual people, so that Cuba cannot benefit from any commercial activities.
Another very important sanctions measure is to obstruct the entry of oil into Cuba and prevent Cuba from importing energy. The purpose is to strangle the Cuban economy and expose the Cuban people to economic difficulties, so as to take to the streets to overthrow the government.