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GKMS now offering Western Union money transfers to Cuba

Published:Wednesday | May 4, 2016 | 5:00 AM
A Western Union sign in Chapelton, Clarendon.

Persons in Jamaica can now send money directly to Cuba, using Western Union, franchise-holder GraceKennedy Money Services (GKMS) officially announced on Monday.

Funds may be remitted for daily living and family care, student support, and health-care expenses, as well as support for private economic activities.

Cuba is among the new markets that Western Union is rolling out services to, on a phased basis, throughout the year, according to Sean Mason, vice-president and general manager for Western Union in the Caribbean. Western Union entered the Cuba-remittance market in March.

Mason said the opening up of the remittance market to Cuba, including from the United States, can "fund regular expenses and micro businesses, driving entrepreneurism, innovation and employment opportunities".

Grace Burnett, CEO of GK Financial Services, the division of the Gracekennedy conglomerate under which GKMS falls, said GK is positioning to take advantage of the recent US-Cuba rapprochement, and aims to gain leverage from the long-standing relationship between Cuba and Jamaica.

"As a member of the private sector, GraceKennedy is pleased with the improved relations between Cuba and the United States of America, even as the countries work to resolve the more sensitive issues," Burnett said.

Recipients of the remittances in Cuba will receive payment in local currency - Cuban Convertible Pesos - from more than 490 Western Union agent locations across all of Cuba's 16 provinces and 168 municipalities.

"This is a significant presence and it is represented by multiple classes of trade - from retail stores to exchange houses," Burnett said.

Cuban recipients must show valid identification to collect the remittances.

At last report, remittances from source markets into Cuba amounted to US$2.8 billion per year, 90 per cent of which originated from the United States. That is expected to climb significantly this year.

The Cuban diaspora is estimated at around 1.4 million.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com