Wall Street collapsed in 2008. The bursting of the U.S. housing bubble and the so-called subprime mortgage crisis fell with immeasurable force on banks and financial institutions. Many people lost their savings, their retirement plans and even their homes in the face of a situation that was beyond them. The crisis escalated worldwide, the global economy fell into recession. Faced with this collapse, ineluctable evidence of the decay of a system, many commented and debated on digital channels about new ways and methods of managing international finances.
The Cryptography Mailing List, a mailing list where texts on economics and cryptography are shared, was the birthplace of perhaps a long-term solution for the global economic system. A mysterious Japanese user named Satoshi Nakamoto shared an idea that immediately met with the approval of many of the list’s members: he proposed the creation of a digital money system, the so-called Bitcoin, with features that were hitherto unheard of for a currency. Many economic specialists rooted in traditional canons predicted an early death. The reality is that over the years it gained strength and stability and, in addition, opened a door through which thousands of other cryptocurrencies went through.
In Cuba, a third world country, economically sanctioned and with infrastructural and technological limitations, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies were not present on the island until several years later. However, in 2022 there is an active and very enthusiastic cryptocurrency community in the face of the various opportunities offered by this type of currency, especially to circumvent the sanctions applied by the U.S. government, send remittances and access international services.
The arrival of Bitcoin in Cuba
In 2015 in Cuba mobile data did not yet exist, public parks with Wi-Fi were not even present in much of the country. However, it was in that space of time when the first transaction with Bitcoin from Cuba was recorded and it was made from one of the parks in Havana. From that moment on, enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies has only grown, although it is still far from being popular among Cubans.
Many unscrupulous people took advantage of the inexperience of the island’s nationals to persuade them to join platforms that promised large profits to customers, obtained by marketing and trading cryptoassets, but proved to be pyramid or ponzi schemes.
Currently there are several communities of islanders who meet to discuss, exchange, buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Most of these groups are linked to the Telegram social network. One of them is Cubacripto, a channel that hosts more than 1400 members.
Initially the only ways to obtain cryptocurrencies within the country were through Faucets that pay fractions of bitcoin for the completion of tasks such as completing surveys, watching ads etc. Now, thanks to increased internet access and cheaper connections, many Cuban entrepreneurs have launched platforms where cryptocurrencies can be obtained and even used to buy goods and services within the national territory. Likewise, some private sector establishments are beginning to allow payment in this type of currency.
Over time, exchanges made in Cuba have emerged that perfectly fit the needs of the national cryptocurrency community. Qbita or HeavenEx are two of them, in which security and transparency in transactions are a priority. Payment gateways such as Qvapay have also been born, which allow funding from different cryptocurrency channels and subsequent transfer to domestic banks. The latter released its API so that anyone who wants to can include it as a form of payment in their business. Likewise, it is possible to buy gift cards from Amazon, Ebay, Spotify, Apple Store and even request the creation of a Visa or Mastercard. These advances make it possible that more and more Cubans are willing to approach the crypto world and invest in this type of currency.
A giant step that will also encourage the use of cryptocurrencies is the publication of Resolution 215/2021, disclosed in the Official Gazette No. 73 Extraordinary, in which the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC) authorized the use of certain virtual assets in commercial transactions and licensed service providers of these assets for operations related to financial, exchange, collection or payment activities in and from the national territory.
At the same time, it recognized transactions with virtual assets between individuals outside the Banking and Financial System, although it warned that they must assume the risks and responsibilities derived from such operations.
Cryptocurrencies as a way of sending remittances
Remittances to Cuba move billions of dollars annually despite the recent sanctions and obstacles imposed by the U.S. government. It is a natural process to start using cryptocurrencies as a way to circumvent these prohibitions. Although it is still an incipient method, it is emerging as a modality that will gain more and more prominence in the future.
The cryptocurrency space in Cuba can be considered emerging, it is in full development, but the optimism with which cryptocurrencies have been welcomed on the island invites to imagine a favorable future for the continued growth of the Cuban crypto community as well as the services it offers.