In 2018, Cuba rolled out a mobile Internet network. This was a major change in a country where Internet access was limited to a few hours a day. It didn’t just allow Cubans more access to the Internet, it also boosted their access to cryptocurrencies. This also allowed them to bypass economic sanctions imposed by the United States and access the global marketplace.
However, crypto still faces challenges there, such as limited access to crypto exchanges, lack of a pertinent regulatory apparatus and the growing popularity of a gold-backed MLM stablecoin.
A report by Reuters included excerpts from an interview with Jason Sanchez, a 35-year-old Cuban who describes virtual currencies as “opening new doors” for ordinary citizens. As Cointelegraph reports, the Havana resident runs a cell phone repair shop and uses Bitcoin (BTC) to purchase hardware online from China.
And, members of CubaCripto, a Telegram group boasting 600 members and considered to be among the first crypto-oriented online communities in Cuba, cryptocurrencies are increasing in popularity for several utilities. Some use it to purchase equipment, but others are looking to virtual currencies for trading and investment purposes. And some Cubans are also using crypto as a means to store value. Alex Sobrino, the founder of CubaCripto, estimates that 10,000 Cubans regularly use cryptocurrency. According to Alex, ordinary Cubans are using crypto to purchase phone credit, buy goods online, and even make hotel reservations.
Access to crypto exchanges is still the big challenge. As of July 1, 2019, Binance DEX’s website began to geoblock users with IP addresses originating from 29 countries, including Cuba. Bittrex also blocks Cubans. And if you visit Cuba it is safer not to try to access any cryptocurrency accounts, or you may find yourself in the same position as a UK-based programmer on holiday in Cuba who accessed his Coinbase account while on the island. On returning to the UK he found that his account had now been blocked.
One solution for Cubans is Fusyona, a company founded in 2018 that calls itself Cuba’s first cryptocurrency exchange. Fusyona acts as a broker between cryptocurrency buyers and individuals located outside of the country who are seeking to remit funds to Cuba, charging a fee of up to 10 percent. So, it isn’t like a typical exchange.
There are many other challenges for crypto in Cuba, but it is an interesting country to follow with regard to digital assets.