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The anguish of using ATMs in Cuba

HOLGUÍN, Cuba.- Exhausted and about to faint, Ángela Rojas González has been in line for more than an hour to withdraw money from an ATM.

She is retired due to illness and collects her pension with a magnetic card. “My sister and I live alone. She has more ailments and cannot leave the house,” Angela tells CubaNet.

Sometimes he has tried in the morning and in others in the afternoon, “but at all times there are always a lot of people. I am going to die standing in line”, says the old woman.

Broken ATM – Fernando Donate

The lines for ATMs are getting longer. The crisis has been increasing since magnetic cards were imposed to collect and pay salaries and pensions.

It is a measure that aims to mitigate the runaway inflation. But the results have not been as expected. In making the decision, the Government did not take into account the obsolete technology, the small number of ATMs and their frequent breakages.

According to official figures, in 2021, through the use of electronic channels, 160 million banking operations were offered and 2,200,000 magnetic cards were issued, more than in 2020.

Waiting in the shade on the opposite sidewalk. Fernando Donate

“We are talking about 11,200,000 cards that have been issued with the different economic actors and with the different products and services associated with them, which can be a savings, salary or fund formation card, among others,” he said. to the granma newspaper the president of the Metropolitan Bank (BANMET), Orlando López Garcés.

The ordeal is daily

However, there is popular displeasure and the government’s image of a Cuba with advances in the digitization and computerization of society remains in question.

The queues are not only on salary and pension payment days: the ordeal is daily. The most affected are older adults, with physical limitations and age-related diseases.

The anguish of using ATMs in Cuba
Waiting under the hot sun – Fernando Donate

In Cuba, social security serves 1,627,856 retirees and pensioners, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS)

The pension does not compensate for the sacrifice of the queue. Leonides, 81, earns 1,528 pesos: the minimum pension in Cuba. “It’s not enough for me to live. For that misery I have to queue for hours and without conditions. Collection day is very sad when it should be happy”, says the old man.

Near the house of Margot, 76 years old, there are no ATMs. Today has been one of her worst days: the two closest teams are broken.

He has reached the center of the city and has encountered long queues to withdraw money from ATMs. “I already dialed, but the queue is very slow. It is terrible to cash the checkbook with a magnetic card, ”says the overwhelmed lady who decided to wait for her sitting on a bench in the San José park.

However, the misfortunes of the elderly have been ignored by the Government, which “agreed to migrate from the electronic payroll to the magnetic card for all pensioners who are paid at the BANMET and BANDEC bank branches and at 20% of the BPA”, as published the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS) on its official Twitter account. The news is ad on April.

The situation has worsened

“In this country everything is done backwards. Instead of increasing the number of ATMs, they decided to increase the number of people who charge with a magnetic card. Now the queues are longer,” Josué, a young man waiting in line, tells CubaNet. “As always, things are done without taking into account reality or the opinion of the people. Those who made the decision do not stand in line to collect at ATMs”, says the young man.

To collect their salary, many take time off from their jobs. “I went to the company and signed the ticket. I came here right away. I’ve been in line all morning and still haven’t been able to withdraw the money. Already today I lost the morning. I have to do it now because when I leave work, the tellers usually don’t have any money,” says Elena, who preferred to identify herself that way.

Queue to withdraw money at the ATM – Fernando Donate

The adverse situation created by the Government conspires against the economic and social development of the country. “There can be no progress if there are problems like these that interrupt the working day and at the same time discourage the people,” says Leonardo. He adds that a lot of work is spent for something as simple as earning a salary that does not meet the minimum needs.

geographic fatalism

At the beginning of the year in Havana, they installed new ATMs with touch screen technology.

A capital privilege that was not extended to the rest of the country where most ATMs work thanks to the inventiveness of technicians, since the technologies used are obsolete and there are no spare parts for them.

The measure has caused discomfort in the population that disagrees with the capital being privileged to the detriment of the rest of the country.

“That is not new. It is like that for everything. Here they always send us the old things that were used in Havana. The same thing happens with the buses,” says Miriam, who has been waiting for more than an hour to extract the money.

Waiting in line lacks the minimum conditions. They are long hours of standing and under an inclement sun. This is what happens to the users of the two ATMs located in the Banco de Créditos y Servicios (BANDEC).

While in the BANDEC on Arias street, only one team is working. The other ran out of available funds due to late deposit.

The queue has been released and has reached the headquarters of the Casa de Iberoamérica. Books for sale that no one looks at are displayed on two tables. The material beats the spiritual. “People are not interested in books, what they want is to get the money and leave as soon as possible,” says a young man.

Queue to withdraw money at the ATM – Fernando Donate

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