Cryptocurrencies in Cuba are experiencing an extraordinary boom. In a context of serious economic crisis, devaluation of the national currency and freezing of relations between Washington and Havana, in addition to a pandemic that seems endless, cryptocurrencies have become a lifeline for many.

The reception of remittances, online purchases in stores abroad, mobile phone recharges, trading and even investments in crypto-asset management platforms that, right now, are at the center of the controversy, have been some of the most common uses of cryptocurrencies in Cuba.

For entrepreneur Mario Mazzola, who created the Qbita Exchange, cryptocurrencies in Cuba are attracting business for two fundamental reasons. The first one, he tells us, is the circumvention of the United States Embargo. “Through Bitcoin, Cubans can connect to world economy, despite not being able to use Visa, MasterCard, American Express cards and services such as Paypal, Skrill and Stripe as a result of the unilateral US sanctions in place”.

The second reason is to avoid inflation. “Unlike fiat money, Bitcoin’s monetary policy is not manipulative and it is deflative. So some turn to Bitcoin to protect the purchasing power of their savings, “concluded Mazzola.

Cuban entrepreneurs have been able to take advantage of this scenario. PanamericanWorld takes a closer look at four projects that focus their business model on cryptocurrencies.

P2P exchanges to buy and sell cryptocurrencies in Cuba

Buying and selling cryptocurrencies may not be difficult for much of the world. With a Visa or MasterCard debit and / or credit card it is possible to acquire a wide variety of cryptocurrencies, on the main international trading platforms (exchanges). Even PayPal is entering this market.

For Cubans these “traditional” methods are like mission impossible. Given the impossibility of access to the Visa and MasterCard payment systems and with access denied to PayPal due to the United States Embargo, how can Cubans buy and sell cryptocurrencies? The answer can found in decentralized exchanges that use the peer-to-peer (P2P) mechanism.

One of these P2P exchanges is HeavenEx, which was initially CubaXchange. This platform allows Cubans to place offers for the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies, with payments through transfers in Pesos (CUP), Dollars (MLC), and bank transfers. The site uses an escrow system, through which it protects the two parties involved in the transaction, in exchange for a 0.5% commission on the transaction.

In addition, HeavenEx allows you to recharge mobile phones in Cuba with cryptocurrencies, and to acquire Visa and MasterCard virtual (not rechargeable) cards.

In 2020, PanamericanWorld spoke with two of the Cuban entrepreneurs who were promoting this project. Now we spoke again with Félix Ulloa. “Since its inception as CubaXchange, the site has enjoyed widespread acceptance. People ask us for updates, they make recommendations on things that they wish to see improved. We already have an integrated platform for purchasing cryptocurrencies with Visa and MasterCard. We keep working and improving our services ”, assured Ulloa.

“In 2021 we are going to add new cryptocurrencies. We are rendering deposits and withdrawals independent, we are creating an API system and a multi-agent system to offer jobs to many within the site. This way we will create a job source for people anywhere in the world ”, stated Ulloa.

Another P2P exchange is Qbita. This venture was created and developed by Mario Mazzola, an Italian residing in Cuba. According to data published on the official site, it currently has more than 19,000 registered users and 1,685 purchases have already been made, moving in total almost 33 bitcoins, amounting to more than 750,000 dollars.

Users can publish their offers for the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies. The platform charges, for the escrow service, between 0.5% and 2% on each operation.

“To grow, Qbita needs to have a more robust organizational and financial structure. So our goal for 2021 is to look for investors who believe in the project and are willing to invest in it, so that the technological development (adding stable coins, for example) and commercial development of the platform can be financed”, assured Mazzola to PanamericanWorld.

Remittances to Cuba in cryptocurrencies

Sending remittances to Cuba has become a headache for the huge community of Cubans living around the world. The sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration led to the closing of hundreds of Western Union offices, distributed throughout the country. Recently, the Cuban government decided not to accept any more dollar bank deposits in cash, only through bank transfers.

In this extremely complicated context and with so many closed doors, sending remittances to Cuba in cryptocurrencies has become one of the most attractive options. Today there are several sites that offer this service. The first to hit the market was BitRemesas.

This platform has a peculiar operation mode because it is the community of crypto enthusiasts in Cuba that is in charge of completing the process.

As soon as a person sends cryptocurrencies to a relative or friend in Cuba, the notice of this transaction reaches the BitRemesas community. Whoever decides to accept it is in charge of sending the money to the beneficiary, in cash, personally or through a bank transfer. Currently, BitRemesas delivers, for every dollar received in cryptocurrencies, 42 Cuban pesos (CUP). Delivery periods are very short and do not exceed 24 hours. The problem is that the BitRemesas community still does not deliver funds in Dollars, only in Pesos.

BitRemesas does not place any tax on remittances. Their business model, with which they generate profits in Bitcoin, is through the auction mechanism, which stems from the competition created among the buyers of the cryptocurrency sent.

In addition, BitRemesas allows users to pay various services in Cuba using cryptocurrencies, such as electricity, but also recharging mobile phones or the Nauta account to surf the Internet.

E-commerce with a payment gateway in cryptocurrencies

One of the most popular cryptocurrency ventures in Cuba is QvaPay, a payment gateway that emerged in 2021 and already has more than 30,000 registered users. Its founder is renowned entrepreneur and youtuber Erich García Cruz.

With QvaPay it is possible to carry out a wide variety of operations with cryptocurrencies. For example, users can fund their accounts through seven payment mechanisms (from Bitcoin and Litecoin to AirTM and Payeer); they can also withdraw their funds from QvaPay through 21 payment mechanisms (all of the above, plus others such as PayPal, Western Union, Zelle, Skrill and towards cards in freely convertible currency in Cuba).

Balance can be transferred directly among users, without the platform charging commissions. With this balance you can buy, in QvaPay, non-rechargeable Visa debit cards, as well as cards from Google Play, the App Store, Netflix, Walmart gift cards and mobile phone recharges from the Cuban telecommunications company (Etecsa). QvaPay offers Cuban entrepreneurs its API so that they can integrate this payment gateway on their websites, thus having the option of charging for the products or services they offer.