Cubans are quietly exploring cryptocurrency use-cases on the politically isolated island, even watching Facebook’s Libra project with cautious optimism.
Cuban expat Claudia Rodriguez of the Brazilian startup Fusyona, the sole bitcoin exchange proactively serving Cubans, told CoinDesk the exchange has nearly 700 accounts since launching in 2018. She said up to 60 users purchase a total of one or two bitcoins every week.
“For Cuba, that is a lot,” Rodriguez said. “Cuba is probably going to be very interesting for Libra [developers] and I hope there will be some potential there.” In its launch materials for the Libra stablecoin, Facebook has focused heavily on the potential to connect the world’s underbanked with digital financial services.
Rodriguez’s Fusyona partners with five volunteers in Cuba, but keeps them anonymous because Cuban regulations neither forbid nor clearly permit selling bitcoin. As such, the startup is working with local lawyers in the hope of finding a “100 percent legal” way to enable peer-to-peer trades in Cuba.
Meanwhile, Cuba’s communist party recently announced plans for a national cryptocurrency project as well. But given the country’s long history of market manipulation, many Cubans are apt to distrust government-backed financial institutions.
Elvis Morales, a Cuban crypto entrepreneur based in Seattle, told CoinDesk he used bitcoin for remittances to family on the island.
“But the only issue is: How will they transfer that [crypto] to actual money in Cuba?” Morales said. “We don’t have credit cards. We have banks but we don’t use them, because the government could come to you and ask why do you have this money?”
Cuban expat Ernesto Alfonso, who used Bitrefill’s bitcoin payment options to help friends on the island pay bills,