Saturday, August 17, 2019

Bitcoin gains ground silently in Cuba

Since 2015, cryptocurrency operations and technologies associated with blockchains have been silently earning hundreds of consumers in the Cuban digital ecosystem. Given this reality, CubaCripto arises, a community of Cuban enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and networkers, created on December 31, 2018, with the purpose of promoting digital finance and entrepreneurship on the Caribbean island.

"We are not a exchange house, we are the first crypto community in Cuba," says Alex Sobrino, founder and leader of CubaCripto. He explains that in Cuba those who sell bitcoin are the same users, who earn their cryptocurrencies through trading or another type of investment.

«We exchange cryptocurrencies among us, as an all-in-one trade. There are no maximum or minimum limits. The Cuban who wants to buy, for example, with 5 convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) is offered an acceptable percentage ».

However, Sobrino adds that unfortunately they must compete with scammers and resellers.

We are not against buying bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies with relatively higher percentages than those in the market, but what we do reject and we are not willing to accept are those people who come to resell the bitcoin that they buy cheap To another consumer. Because scammers buy bitcoin at market price with a percentage of 1, 2% and then intend to sell it at 10, 15%.

Alex Sobrino, founder of CubaCripto

He also considers that, despite the rise of these trading tools, the performance of cryptocurrencies on the Caribbean island "is still quite limited, because we have no support from any entity and much less from the Government." When evaluating the context of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, he says that compared to other countries "it is quite poor because we lack a large market."

In his opinion, the main drawbacks that they must face are the lack of government support and the limitations of mass dissemination of information by the media, because in the digital portals there is not much talk about this issue.

Here in Cuba there is no training on cryptocurrencies. My team and I try to boost that culture and we have done it solidly, because we are a community that has branched out and there are many communities that house entrepreneurial traders, enthusiasts and investors. Maybe not with the strength that exists in Venezuela, but we exist and increasingly consolidate ourselves.

Alex Sobrino, founder of CubaCripto

Nephew points out that CubaCripto doesn't have a physical headquarters. Its vital space is the Telegram messaging network (initially it was WhatsApp) and its members are from several provinces of the country, some of them located abroad.

He adds that the CubaCripto chats become virtual classrooms, exchange centers or strategy discussions. The most prepared and novices who want to learn participate, always on alert to study each initiative, and avoid the recurring scams that abound in the network.

In this sense, he explains that the community is segmented into several specialized channels by subject, where they talk about cryptocurrencies, Forex, and other strategies associated with what Sobrino calls «cryptocurrency finance».

Benefits of cryptocurrencies

Around the benefits that crypto assets have brought to the Cuban market, Sobrino said they have replaced electronic payment methods, because in Cuba they have restricted access to Visa and Maste Card. "Our cards do not work to make online payments on international platforms, much less in retail stores."

Cryptocurrencies have been a blessing to us because we have been able to make payments for services and top-ups of telephone and Internet using cryptocurrencies. You can also make hotel reservations at sites that accept this method of payment.

Alex Sobrino, founder of CubaCripto

Another advantage, he said, is that it has allowed the creation of communities, teaching on the subject of cryptocurrencies, as well as using them as a way to obtain more income and profits. «Our salaries are very poor (between 20 and 30 CUC) and despite the salary increases this is not enough. Therefore, we have tried to encourage the use of cryptocurrencies, despite official silence.

He explains that in Cuba there are two official currencies: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (CUP). The first began to circulate in 1994, is equivalent to the US dollar and was intended for foreigners to use in the payment of products or services on the island. The second is known as the national currency, because it is more used among Cubans.

Nephew believes that there is a kind of "government fear" about this new type of financial tools, but says that bitcoin has been a fortune for Cubans.


Nephew says that it is complex to operate taking into account the scarce resources, although with a 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM phone, with between 8 and 16 GB of storage, a screen of at least five inches and an operating system that supports applications , it can be operated perfectly ».

He explains that the slow Internet connection speed, together with the limited coverage and high consumption of data packets, greatly influence the process. This can cause significant losses if the orders cannot be placed on time or the market suffers a sudden fall.

«Trading tools consume quite a few megabytes (MB), and not every day is profit. If we add to that the speed of the network and poor coverage in some areas, we would be working only to pay for the Internet ». He adds that another thing is deposits. The Cuban cannot deposit directly in a cryptocurrency broker or exchange because he does not have a credit card. What it does is look for platforms that accept deposits in cryptocurrencies.

Many cryptocurrency exchange houses do not allow access to Cubans due to US embargo regulations. In those that are accepted, Visa or MasterCard cards are essential for the exchange, but they are not always available to many. Then solutions are sought to obtain the local currency: the Cuban convertible peso or CUC.

Alex Sobrino, founder of CubaCripto

Most used cryptocurrencies

The founder of CubaCripto explained that the most used cryptocurrencies on the island are ether (ETH), litecoin (LTC), and of course bitcoin (BTC). The latter is located at the top of the market, with a value that is currently around USD 10,000 or Cuban convertible pesos (CUC). But outside of trading, its use for daily purchases is scarce.

“Cryptocurrencies are mostly used to exchange them, buy more, and leave them stored in a portfolio with the hope that the price (holding) will rise. Also to invest in a project that requires deposits in cryptocurrencies or to trade, ”added Sobrino.

He also maintains that a broader, diverse and reliable community is needed for cryptocurrencies to become an extended payment method. But that projects such as CubaCripto, PIVX, Steem and other groups visible on the networks, are discovering an expanding movement with users from different backgrounds.

He adds that since the beginning of Internet access by data in Cuba, cryptocurrency-related communities multiplied their appearance and found better ways of organizing with Telegram, without the need for state entities to implement them. These communities are made up of the so-called networkers.

Ecosystem perspectives

As for the short and medium term perspectives, Sobrino said they expect CubaCripto to grow and become a great community. They aim to help find financial independence, advise and guide anyone who needs it, in addition to contributing to the economic and social development of the country and working together for a sustainable economy.

On the other hand, in the long term it plans to found an academy to teach finance, trading and everything related to cryptocurrencies, that is, to educate Cuban society financially.

In terms of legality, he asserted that the Cuban Constitution on the one hand supports the freedom to create groups and meet, as long as they do not affect the development and functioning of the Government's revolutionary thinking.

Although he does not want to mix the political issue, he points out that he would like to work together with the Government and go to universities and schools to give lectures to people who do not have this knowledge, in order to demonstrate that the application of cryptocurrencies in Cuba is valid. He claims that the Government has so far done nothing in favor of the ecosystem. "I think they see this tool as a method for people to profit and circumvent future taxes, although this is not the case."

We want to work with the Government, but in turn they do not interfere. For example, they do not get into our finances because we are working with tools that do not depend on them, nor do we work in their spaces. We pay for the Internet service, which they send free from Venezuela. We do not want to be taxed in cryptocurrencies, as they have done in Venezuela. We do not intend to intervene or restrict us more than we already are. Cuba is too limited by the US, hence we cannot enter the exchange houses because they do not accept the Cubans.

Alex Sobrino, founder of CubaCripto

Personal experience

On a personal level, Alex Sobrino comments that his knowledge of computer science and first contacts with the technologies came at an early age, by family, since he has no professional training. "I have dedicated a large part of my life to study independently," he says.

He tells that a friend gave him a Visa gift card (gift card), with just 25 dollars, which was used to make payments in online stores that accepted these methods. Then, with his small fortune he launched cryptocurrency trading. His luck came months later, when he met other enthusiasts, who like him, worked from anonymity.

To change that reality, "I created CubaCrypto in December 2018". From the point of view of Sobrino, the potential expressed in personal finances that is lived silently in Cuba is an obvious example of the incalculable range of applications that cryptocurrencies have. While that time comes, many continue to learn and try to live from trading. "The best job in the world," concludes Sobrino.