Within the communist-led country of Cuba, citizens subjected to US sanctions now have a means of escape; and it's partly thanks to bitcoin.
According to a report by US news, Cubans are taking advantage of innovative developments within the country. One change, in particular, is the emergence of mobile internet, which is opening up a myriad of options to Cuba's citizens. Sanctions inflicted by a US trade restriction stretching back to the 1960s, have permanently hindered the country's access to goods and services; including essential online payment systems. Now, with mobile internet firmly established, Cubans appear to be turning to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to subvert the US trade embargo.
One citizen highlighted within the report noted how cryptocurrency trading was "opening new doors,” for the Cuban people. Relaying his own story, 35-year-old Jason Sanchez told how the non-sovereign power of bitcoin saved his cellphone repair business; enabling him to purchase spare parts online via crypto.
Of course, along with a lack of access to financial services, comes a shortage of debit and credit cards; a crucial component of cryptocurrency trading. As such, citizens often resort to help from friends and relatives abroad. Alex Sobrino, the founder of CubaCripto, a de facto peer-to-peer crypto trading group on Telegram, suggested that around 10,000 Cubans we're utilizing cryptocurrencies already:
"We are using cryptocurrencies to top up our cellphones, to make purchases online, and there are even people reserving hotel rooms."
Sanctuary From Sanction
Fusyona, purportedly Cuba's first-ever cryptocurrency exchange, currently boasts a user base of 1,300 people. Alongside crypto trading, the bespoke platform, distinctively designed for Cuba's unique problems, also allows remittance payments.
Speaking to US news, Adrian C. Leon, founder of Fusyona noted the growing importance of cryptocurrencies:
"For foreigners, cryptocurrencies is just another option. But for Cubans, it is a necessity and can be a solution to their exclusion from the global financial community."
However, fears remain that the government will impose its own restriction on cryptocurrency-related services.
"We worry the government will restrict us, prohibit things, start to say this is illicit enrichment," explained Leon.
It's not just Cubans who are undermining US sanctions, Venuzealuans have been using cryptocurrencies as a workaround for several years. Iranian's too have been hot on bitcoin trading and mining to avoid its own sanctions. In fact, this recently reached an extent to which the Iranian government seized a reported 1,000 miners; all in an effort to reduce the impact crypto mining was having on energy consumption.
Regardless, international sanctions placed on misbehaving governments continue to be undermined by little old bitcoin.