Cuban ATMs have started accepting cards that use the MIR payment system of Russia. It is expected that by the end of this year, it would be possible to use MIR cards at all payment terminals in the country.
Juan Carlos Escalona, tourism counselor of the Cuban embassy in Moscow, announced this Tuesday, July 26, that it is now possible In Cuba to withdraw money in pesos with cards of the Russian payment system MIR.
“The first phase, which allows the use of MIR cards at ATMs, has concluded,” he told the Association of Tour Operators of Russia. ATMs of Cuban state banks are present all over Havana and in the principal tourist attractions, including the popular beach resort of Varadero.
“By the end of 2022, as part of the second phase, MIR cards will be accepted at all payment terminals in Cuba,” Escalona added.
The diplomat stated that this has been possible due to the joint efforts of Russia and Cuba to launch the full service of the Russian payment system in the Caribbean island nation. It is expected that “this measure will contribute to the resumption of flights and the recovery of Russian tourism in Cuba,” he stressed.
Other measures to reactivate tourism
Escalona stated that about 147,000 Russians travelled to Cuba in 2021, making Russia the country with the largest number of visitors to Cuba. Russian tour operators were the first among international companies to launch direct flights to Cuba during the pandemic, allowing the Caribbean country to resume its tourism. However, since March of this year, as the US and its allies started sanctioning all sectors of the Russian economy, there have been no direct Russian flights to Cuba, although Havana has guaranteed the Russian authorities immunity for planes of Aeroflot and other Russian airlines.
In addition, the Cuban government recently announced a set of measures aimed at reviving the economy. Following the example of other Latin American countries, Cuban authorities will introduce a higher official exchange rate for the dollar and other foreign currencies. In this way, foreign tourists will be able to exchange dollars for Cuban pesos in local banks at a competitive government exchange rate.
After the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, several Russian banks were disconnected from the SWIFT interbank transfer system. Visa and Mastercard suspended all operations and services they provided in Russia, making it impossible to use Russian debit and credit cards abroad. The MIR system, created by Russia in 2015, has not been affected as it an operate outside the SWIFT framework. It currently works in 11 countries: Armenia, Turkey, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and South Korea. Venezuela is also in the process of integrating its financial system with MIR, so that Russian cards become usable in Venezuela.
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