Stonegate Bank in
Pompano Beach, Fla., has
agreed to provide banking services for the Cuban government.
The development is
another significant step toward restored diplomatic relations between the U.S.
In a statement, bank CEO Dave Seleski said, “At the request of the U.S.
Department of State, Stonegate Bank has reached an agreement with the
government of Cuba to provide banking services to the Cuban Interests Section
in Washington, D.C., as well as its employees.
"The adoption of banking services
will ease the burden on the Cuban Interests Section in terms of issuing travel
visas and other functions associated with any embassy in Washington, D.C. We
hope this is the initial step to normalize banking ties between the two
countries, which will benefit American companies wanting to do business in
Cuba, as well as the Cuban people.”
The Cuban Interests Section has been without banking
services in the U.S. since August 2013, when M&T Bank in New York announced
it would no longer provide financial services to foreign diplomatic missions in
the U.S., including Cuba’s, as of November 2013.
Since that time,
the Cuban Interests Section has been trying to find a new bank to service their accounts in the
U.S, forcing it to conduct financial matters in cash.
The banking issue
has been one of Havana’s top demands in negotiations with the U.S.
The move would
simplify matters for tour operators with programs to Cuba, allowing them to pay
for visas for their clients by check or credit card rather than in cash.
“This is great
news and hopefully a harbinger of continuing progress in the thawing of
relations between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Peggy Goldman, president of tour operator Friendly
Planet. “I expect to see
more banks following Stonegate’s example. This is the pathway toward being able
to use U.S.-based credit cards in Cuba.”
president of Insight Cuba, said, “This is a win-win
for both Cuba and the U.S. It streamlines and simplifies our operations and
allows the CIS to resume normal financial operations in the U.S."