Why some Cubans are adopting BTC to escape ‘The Matrix’

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Bitcoin adoption could swell in Cuba, particularly if private businesses understand the upside to accepting Bitcoin (BTC) as currency. That’s according to a Cuban businessperson and Bitcoin advocate, Erich Garcia Cruz.

A recent emigrant to the United States, Cruz is a vocal proponent of Bitcoin adoption in Cuba. Cruz leads the remittance and money transfer services BitRemesas and QvaPay, and has been outspoken in supporting Cuban citizens using Bitcoin since 2020.

In an interview with Cointelegraph as part of an upcoming documentary, Cruz explained that Cubans can use Bitcoin “as a tool.”

Photo of Erich and Joe during the interview. Source: Cointelegraph

While some Cubans use Bitcoin as a store of value, a means of exchange or a remittance tool, ultimately, it’s about getting “out from the Matrix,” he explained. Cruz referred to the country’s centrally planned and officially communist economy.

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Cuba has no independent press, while the historic United States trade embargo makes it very hard for Cubans to access U.S. products, services and even applications. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is money independent of the state, and has no leader or central party.

Cruz explained that during a visit to El Salvador in 2022, one of his friends asked, “How do you teach about Bitcoin in Cuba if Cuba is run by a communist party?” Surely the party would be against Bitcoin?

“I don’t know if the government doesn’t know just how powerful Bitcoin is; they don’t know, and they are just thinking I’m teaching the people about coins in the casino, or if they are afraid of the hyper-Bitcoinization of the Cuban society.”

Cruz hints that the government may already understand how Bitcoin works, and maybe, “They can bypass some sanctions worldwide” using internet-based money.

Additionally, since 2021, the government has been warming up to cryptocurrencies, as private businesses can legally accept cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin for goods and services. Cruz explains that more and more private companies should accept cryptocurrency instead of the Cuban peso (CUP) or moneda libremente convertible (MLC) — freely convertible currency:

“If you get paid with CUP or MLC, you are solving the customer’s problem, but you are creating a problem for you because owners are saying that then or later they will try to convert the CLP or MLC into international currency.”

The Cuban peso has devalued by more than 800% since its inception. If a Cuban bought Bitcoin at its all-time high of $69,000, they would still have more value in Bitcoin than pesos. Moreover, the MLC is a government-backed stablecoin used for purchases in state-run supermarkets. Cubans looking to save money typically do so in the U.S. dollar and, increasingly, Bitcoin.

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MLC price movement as compared to U.S. dollars and euros since 2015.

Cruz shares the example of his father, who bought a small amount of Bitcoin with his Cuban peso pension fund three years ago. The pension fund has dramatically lost value as the Cuban peso continues to devalue, while Bitcoin has not only retained but increased in purchasing power:

“It’s not financial advice, but it’s better to store your value in Bitcoin than the CUP — a government-issued shitcoin.”

Nonetheless, despite the huge currency devaluation, Bitcoin suffers from a bad reputation in Cuba. Cruz was scammed by a crypto project before learning what Bitcoin is:

“We have no internet [in Cuba] until five years ago, and Bitcoin is 14 years old. The first contact with Bitcoin in our society was through scams.”

Cuba has a highly educated population and university education is free; however, the island is sheltered from Western influences, and the internet is a relatively new tool. The internet, as Cruz points out, only began to penetrate the country in a meaningful way over the past five years.

Related: Cuba Bitcoin community hosts BTC-only meetup

Cruz’s work, and that of the Cuban Bitcoin community, targets private businesses in Cuba, making it an area in which Bitcoin adoption could thrive:

“You have to teach the people who have the power to embrace that solution. And that’s the private sector. Okay? There is no law. There is no law that forbids the business from accepting Bitcoin. Not yet.”

Cruz’s interview will feature in an upcoming documentary about Bitcoin in Cuba.

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