Communist Cuba Opens Up To Crypto
Cryptocurrency is spreading like wildfire. In Cuba, too, the disruptive technology is making its mark
Bastion Of Communism
There’s no escape from cryptocurrencies, and especially Bitcoin. No corner of the world exists (North Korea and Iran being possible exceptions) where its influence is not being felt. Even in Cuba, that bastion of Communist thought and dialectics for sixty years now (although since Raul Castro’s death things have cooled somewhat), the digital currency has extensive use-cases as evidence.
Part of the reason for this — and a big factor in why a section of the population is adopting it — was the Cuban government’s move in 2018 to make the mobile internet widely available across the Caribbean island. It has helped, in some way, to alleviate the problems caused by the decades-long US embargo, as now Cubans can purchase goods online.
Cryptocurrencies, however, have had a longer lifespan on the island, and have slowly been seeing popularity in their use since the introduction of publicly funded Wi-Fi networks back in 2015.
‘We believe that Bitcoin has an essential role to play within the context of renewed relations between Cuba and the USA. This currency would not be punished like the dollar is today; the dictatorship makes holding dollars a burden, but the introduction of Bitcoin would allow us to potentially dodge this problem.’
— Jois Garcia, cofounder of the Cuban Anarchocapitalist Club (CAC)
For western and richer nations, cryptocurrencies can be seen as another option to fiat currencies, whilst in Cuba those using them regard crypto as a lifeline against the hardships and burden that come with being internationally excluded from trade.
For all its pluses, however, there are still many challenges in Cuba for cryptocurrency to be used wide-scale, most of all because of a lack of regulations and a limited number of crypto exchanges available; or if they are around, the government forbids people accessing them, through firewalls and the blocking of the internet. A 2018 report, conducted by Mosaic.io, a crypto exchange platform, discovered 19 of 44 cryptocurrency exchanges placed restrictions on Cubans from gaining access to their platform. This, unfortunately, made Cuba the sixth-most blocked jurisdiction in the world. To add to the malady, many Cubans have started using an MLM stablecoin, less volatile than Bitcoin and other altcoins as it is backed by the gold token.
‘Keep in mind Cuba is a very unique country. It’s the only communist country in the Caribbean area — the closest communist country to America. Cryptocurrency has had very little impact on the economy here, on the people. And very few people understand it or know anything about it.’
— John McAfee
But Cubans are fighting back. CubaCripto, which is a Telegram group thought to be the first online community dedicated to crypto-related issues in the country, is changing people’s perception on the island about cryptocurrencies. With a population of just over 11 million, the six hundred members of the group seem like a drop in the ocean. Yet, you have to remember when the good ship Granma landed at Niquero in 1957, there were just 82 members on board, including the Castro brothers and Che Guevara.
Revolutions happen one step at a time.
And There’s More:
Fusyona, self-styled as Cuba’s first cryptocurrency exchange, operates as a broker between individuals and those wishing to purchase cryptocurrency from outside Cuba for the purpose of forwarding funds to the island. Fusyona, charges a ten-percent commission fee for its trouble. All this is a slap in the face to the government bigwigs in charge in Havana.
That is why, seeing it as a threat, the Cuban government is retaliating. In July of this year, President Miguel Diaz-Canel declared that his government would raise the incomes of twenty-five percent of the country’s population while enabling its citizens to access foreign investments. This move, in part, is a way to avoid the U.S sanctions that have crippled the country for decades.
Cuba’s economy minister, Alejandro Gil Fernandez, had this to say:
‘We are studying the potential use of cryptocurrency […] in our national and international commercial transactions, and we are working on that together with academics.’
Whatever the outcome, as the political climate turns to rapprochement with the United States, Cuba will see more of an upsurge in use of cryptocurrencies, levelling the playing field and hopefully directing the beautiful Caribbean island on the right path to economic recovery and an overall sense that it can play an important part in the economic development of the region.