MIAMI – U.S.-based Western Union said on Monday it would begin processing money transfers to Cuba from customers across the world later this year, expanding a service that is currently restricted to U.S.-sourced remittances.
The global payments giant already handles wire transfers from the United States to Cuba, with 490 agent locations in each of the Communist-ruled island’s 16 provinces and 168 municipalities.
It said that thanks to recent U.S. regulatory and policy changes it would launch an expanded Cuba service by the end of the second quarter “in a phased approach.”
Remittances may be sent to relatives or other Cuban citizens to meet family expenses and provide personal support for private economic activity, Western Union said.
“As we have found in other parts of the world, expanding remittances will provide a vital opportunity to improve the standard of living for Cuban people, contribute to savings and eventually investment towards small businesses,” said Odilon Almeida, Western Union’s president for the Americas and European Union.
An estimated 1.4 million Cubans live abroad, according to UN Population Division Migration Data for 2015.
The United States, Spain, Italy, Mexico and Canada account for nearly 96 percent of that population, but Cubans reside in at least 72 different countries.
Cash remittances to Cuba in 2013 totaled $2.8 billion, with 90 percent of that total U.S.-sourced.
Remittances reach 62 percent of Cuban households and provide thousands of jobs, according to the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group.