Company card, with fees, for a store that marks up prices is not popular but a bitter necessity pushed on Cubans by the Castro regime to take more of their hard currency.
The Associated Press (AP) long ago jumped the shark on its Cuba coverage, but it still continues to surprise. On September 28th Andrea Rodriguez of the AP made the claim that "a debit card backed by remittances" had "recently became popular in Cuba because people can use it to buy home appliances, food and replacement parts." When other options are chocked off by the communist bureaucracy does not make what remains popular, but the only alternative.
American International Service (AIS) cards are produced by AIS, a company registered in Panama, but controlled by Fincimex, one of the companies in the Grupo de Administración Empresarial, S.A., or better known by its acronym GAESA.
They receive transfer fees through AIS and FINCIMEX and keep the hard currency while dispensing local currency that has no value outside Cuba, or issues debit cards loaded with international currency for accounts it alone controls. For example if you transfer 100 Euros then you pay a "transfer fee" of 7.50 Euros. GAESA is a conglomerate of the Castro regime's military that is able to funnel those funds into maintaining the repressive apparatus on the island, or also use it for repressive forces in Venezuela that have been training Maduro's military and security forces in psychological and physical torture techniques.
This reality is left out of the AP's reporting, but also everyday Cubans are also getting a raw deal.
Like a company store, the state owned, or more often and accurately termed "military owned stores" mark up prices on badly needed products, but have no competition. In the Miami Herald Emilio Morales, president of The Havana Consulting Group, reports that "the Cuban military, which controls remittances, the tourism industry, and several chain stores, has benefited from remittances to the island, appropriating nearly 74 percent of every dollar sent by the Cuban exiles. Morales, who has been tracking the money sent to Cuba over the years, estimates that since 1993, Cuba has received around $46.8 billion in remittances. Almost $20 billion passed through the hands of the Cuban military."
The AIS cards are the latest manifestation of the Castro dictatorship's desire to vacuum up hard currency in Cuba, and leave Cubans with worthless paper and products that they have had to purchase at an exorbitant price.
U.S. sanctions placed on FINCIMEX to restrict hard currency to the Castro regime's repressive apparatus is a positive step, and at a time when the dictatorship is in need of hard currency, it has proven to be more flexible in its policies due to external pressure. It is a nonviolent tactic and can fit within an overall strategic nonviolent approach.
The AP has ignored this pattern of government behavior that stretches back decades that demonstrates when pressured, despite the hostile rhetoric, the dictatorship seeks accommodation to relieve pressure and survive.
It has also ignored how appeasing Havana time and time again cost lives, not only in Cuba, but also the United States.