By 2017, despite many much-hyped reforms, a pair of jeans still cost a month of state income, and rations ran out after only a few days. The vaunted healthcare system allowed a cholera outbreak, and was tilted toward special care for elites. In 2014 and 2015, the Obama administration opened up American restrictions, boosting local enterprise with a wave of new tourists. city index reviews But Obama also ended the wet-foot, dry-foot immigration policy, and a few years later Trump reversed the opening. Perhaps the current political protests will be enough to show the world that Cubans are tired of living under dictatorship, but not enough to end the regime. Over the decades, many predicted the fall of the Castro tyranny, only to be proven wrong.

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But, he said, either way it is very easy for him to exchange bitcoin for MLC or pesos and buy whatever he needs. Cruz remains very critical of the U.S. embargo, which prevents him from accessing a variety of services otherwise available to people living just a few hundred miles away in Miami. In March 2020, Cruz made a popular video where he exposed Trust Investing, and showed how it was a pyramid scheme. As part of the reaction to the video, people encouraged him to look at other investing options. He pledged to himself to try and become an expert on the topic.

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As an intern at the Human Rights Foundation, I helped participate in a 2007 program where we would send foreign books and films into Cuba’s pre-internet “underground library” system. From an office in New York, I would burn copies of subtitled films like “V For Vendetta” and “Braveheart” onto DVDs, which were disguised as music CDs, and sent to Cuba with Latin American citizens who would head to the island through Mexico. Born largely in the 1990s in the wake of the Special Period, they live under constant attack. In 2003, at just around the same time as the regime was forced to modify the currency system to keep society afloat, it launched the “Black Spring” crackdown, rounding up dozens of poets, authors and journalists.

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Jorge told me that Bitcoin is no magic solution to all of Cuba’s problems, and notes that people are facing an incredibly difficult time for a variety of reasons. He looks to El Salvador’s national Bitcoin adoption and said that services used there like Strike are not available in Cuba, and likely will not be because of the embargo. Cruz estimates that at least 300,000 Cubans have used bitcoin or cryptocurrency at least once, and that maybe 100,000 use it on a regular basis. This is 2.5% of the island’s population, precisely in line with global estimates that 200 million of the world’s 7.8 billion people have used Bitcoin. Cruz said the recent protests have been triggered by a lack of food, a lack of medication, by people suffering from hunger, trying to survive in brutal conditions, during a pandemic, with government bureaucracy, and with high inflation. He was comfortable using his name for this interview, as he said he is already a “very popular, very known” person.

I asked Jorge about the many Western critics of Bitcoin, who say it is just for criminals and that it has no social value. Many people’s lives “have been improved dramatically” through Bitcoin, he said. Sobrado provided a similar service with Cubans using or Airbnb, which have special OFAC permission to operate on the island. Americans, Herrero said, could actually top up MLC accounts directly with dollars until last summer.

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With the MLC system, the regime stocks stores with appliances like air conditioners, so that it is actually easier for citizens to buy them there as opposed to with a mule. This way, instead of leaking hard currency out, the regime actually accumulates it, as citizens ask family, friends, and colleagues to top up their MLC accounts so they can buy the air conditioner. Through the platform, some Cubans have found arbitrage opportunities in an otherwise extortionate financial system. For example, in order to lure hard currency, state-run telecoms company ETECSA will sometimes provide extra credit if one tops up their mobile phone with euros or pounds.

Independent outlets like 14ymedio, founded by blogger and philologist Yoani Sánchez, and Diario de Cuba continue to report, but work remains difficult. One of Cuba’s leading human rights advocates, Oswaldo Payá, died in a car crash in 2013, an incident widely believed to be state murder. Going onto the street and protesting continues to carry huge risk, as hundreds of disappearances and lengthy prison sentences for protestors last month demonstrate. “Historic” reforms of the system announced by Raúl and Diaz-Canel ended up being small tweaks. Entrepreneurship does not grow well in a climate with no wholesale market, with strict limits on the number of employees one can hire, where licenses are expensive, taxes hefty and credit scarce.

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As of 2018, Cuba’s top source of revenue was shockingly not the tourism industry, but rather the export of more than 50,000 healthcare workers each year to more than 60 countries. Cuba’s educational system is designed to produce a surplus of doctors, nurses and technicians — an “army of white coats” — who are sent abroad in a PR scheme. Herrero said the program is a way to “weave the revolution” into a solution, where the government proudly announces that we will send brigades around the world to save the downtrodden, who have been ignored by imperialist powers. In reality, the state confiscates 75% of the salaries of these workers, raking in more than $11 billion per year, making a form of indentured servitude Cuba’s biggest export. Unlike previous Cuba policy between the Kennedy and Clinton years, in the new era since 1996 when Helms Burton was passed, the embargo has been codified into law and cannot be lifted by executive order.

Dentro de la revolución de Bitcoin en Cuba

The dual currencies also allowed for accounting alchemy that benefitted state-run enterprises. For example, as Sobrado noted, a well-connected elite could buy a ticket to fly out of Cuba paying a few hundred pesos, instead of a few hundred CUCs or dollars. This also meant that some state enterprises could buy imports at the “peso” price, while selling at the dollar price. There was a chronic exaggeration of assets and underestimation of liabilities. These financial tricks were done at the expense of the peso and the average worker. Much like other closed regimes like North Korea and the Soviet Union, technology and outside information is having a massive impact on Cuba.

  • But, Jorge said, people today are learning more about Bitcoin, getting enthusiastic and saving up.
  • This is 2.5% of the island’s population, precisely in line with global estimates that 200 million of the world’s 7.8 billion people have used Bitcoin.
  • He was comfortable using his name for this interview, as he said he is already a “very popular, very known” person.
  • Even the advent of the internet has not been enough to shake its grip.
  • It was clear that Big Brother is very much still alive in her mind.
  • This also meant that some state enterprises could buy imports at the “peso” price, while selling at the dollar price.

Sobrado said the best months in terms of overall revenue were late 2019 and early 2020. During the pandemic, he said, “the whole thing died,” but it is yet another example of how creative minds are using Bitcoin to Interactive Brokers Review improve lives, make things more efficient, and earn money even in a dreary police state. Using Bitcoin so comprehensively to live is not widespread, Jorge said, and he admits he is one of the very early adopters.

Herrero told me about Erich García Cruz, a popular Cuban Bitcoin personality. He called Cruz a “one man CNET,” as he often appears as a guest on state TV, and runs his own popular YouTube channel reviewing different kinds of technology and payment systems. Nearly everything the regime promotes about its economy is a veil of ideology covering up exploitation.

Sobrado would receive their euros into a foreign account, and then he would sell those euros for bitcoin, which could be sent to his team in Cuba in minutes, and sold there for CUC or pesos. Cruz said he has no special political information, but said the government is researching cryptocurrency as part of its current five-year plan, and could eventually adopt a Bitcoin strategy. For example, it could start accepting bitcoin at MLC stores, or allow citizens to use bitcoin to top up MLC accounts, or to sell tourist offerings or even exports for bitcoin. Meanwhile, Cubans abroad find it hard to simply send money to their families. Herrero said one way was to make a bank wire to someone in Panama who would “duffel bag” cash to Havana. One could give $100 to someone in Miami, and they would call their business partner in Havana and have them deliver $100 minus a cut to one’s family.

II. Encontrar la libertad a través de Bitcoin

Desertcart delivers the most unique and largest selection of products from across the world especially from the US, UK and India at best prices and the fastest delivery time. Jorge said that today he even taps into an informal market for meal delivery using Bitcoin. He places an order via a peer-to-peer service, and the prepared food shows up at his doorstep. He said that between his business, his meals and other various items, he buys almost everything he needs today with bitcoin. For Jorge, living in a Bitcoin economy is not a future dream, it is the present day.

He built a team that would service, for example, taxi drivers and apartment owners, to make it easier for them to accept foreign payments. In 2014 and 2015, WiFi started to pop up across Cuba at hotels and public access points. Paquete grew dramatically at this point, with some people getting paid to simply stand around and download content all day. Internet access has increased dramatically in recent years, but is still censored and slow and surveilled.

But after nearly 20 years of economic reforms, and a half-decade of a connected population, the Cuban communist party still holds onto power. Even the advent of the internet has not been enough to shake its grip. Its stubborn, conservative nature has sadly worked, and kept it alive for many software request for proposal template decades. While Bitcoin might be a good way for it to accumulate the hardest currency on earth, the dinosaurs in charge may not think this is a risk worth taking. Jorge could not have predicted this summer’s July 11 movement, but either way, he was thrilled to connect to the world online.

Bitcoin’s new form of digital money was one of the most interesting things he found on the web, but he did not know how to actually “give use” to the new digital currency beyond saving. The power of the internet in Cuba was on full display last month, when a July 10 Facebook post in the small town of San Antonio de los Banos helped ignite national protests the next day. He discovered Bitcoin in March 2018, when he took advantage of Cuba’s expanded internet access to start trading and “stacking sats” online for various tasks.