Bitcoin in Cuba: “This currency would not be punished like the dollar is today”

Proof that Bitcoin can empower the minority, independent of political will or regulatory circumstance, is coming to light in 2015 – in Cuba.

In an exclusive interview with Cointelegraph, members of the Club Anarcocapitalista de Cuba (Cuban Anarchocapitalist Club; CAC) were able to go on record to describe their mission to bring the social and economic freedom engendered by Bitcoin to their local community.

Changing international relations with Cuba have made international headlines in recent months. Trade embargoes with the US are under review, and in their absence a Cuba could emerge which would swiftly become unrecognizable from the mysterious country with the foreboding government of the past 50 years.

The CAC proves first and foremost however that the freedoms afforded to ordinary Cubans are as restricted as before at present, and that the process of increasing awareness of Bitcoin is both laborious and dangerous.

“We believe that Bitcoin has an essential role to play within the context of renewed relations between Cuba and the USA,” CAC co-founder Joisy Garcia said. “This currency would not be punished like the dollar is today; the dictatorship makes holding dollars a burden, but the introduction of Bitcoin would allow us to potentially dodge this problem.”

Mises Cuba logo

CAC was originally founded as a branch of the Mises Institute of Cuba, whose website takes the form of a blog featuring articles critiquing the country’s regime and discussing potential outcomes of change. CAC, which this week celebrates its first anniversary, is itself still very small, operated by co-founders Garcia Martinez and Nelson Rodríguez Chartrand with the support of a handful of others at home and in the US. It is likely this offshore support that allowed the group to begin accepting Bitcoin donations in February, a move which caught the attention of mainstream media: it was, of course, the first organization in the country to have any formal ties with the digital currency.

“We are immersed in educating new entrepreneurs and the general public, Bitcoin is brand new both for us and for Cubans in general, and with it come new and fascinating experiences,” Garcia explained.

In his interview with PanAm Post last month, Garcia held back from explaining exactly how the group uses Bitcoin to boost its activity with regard to converting funds to Cuban pesos. He is still bound to secrecy, but hinted at the underlying aims being facilitated by these early exercises in careful accounting.

“We can't reveal much about the issues surrounding conversion, but we can tell you that Bitcoin will help our club bear fruit – later we will be able to unveil some projects we have, which are ongoing as part of the distribution of the Ludwig von Mises [Institute] digital library,” he said.

Garcia is understandably discreet in his discussions, yet there is also a palpable optimism from all the club’s members, something which has no doubt not come about in haste. With regard to the future, however, in a Cuba becoming ever more dynamic thanks to the influx of international attention, there remains an understated yet equally palpable sense of doubt.

“The Internet, whether the dictatorship likes it or not, is gaining ground in Cuba, so we are optimistic in thinking that Bitcoin is a viable alternative for new Cuban entrepreneurs; tourists could travel from Europe USA and so on,” Garcia added, while simply concluding, “The government is not concerned about the cryptocurrency phenomenon yet, because we are one of the least connected countries in the world.”

Cointelegraph was also fortunate to be able to reach out to US-based Fernando Villar, a supporter of the CAC’s projects who first introduced Garcia to Bitcoin. Villar is spearheading an initiative to spread awareness of Bitcoin in Cuba, with plans to capitalize on the changing scene to provide for the country the empowering financial services currently being witnessed elsewhere, notably in Kenya.

His website, BitcoinCuba, has even received attention from Roger Ver, who voiced his support for Villar’s non-profit scheme. Villar spoke further about the background to Bitcoin coming to Cuba through the efforts of both organizations, and the current atmosphere in the current, highly changeable diplomatic environment.

Cuba flag

Cointelegraph: International relations with Cuba are now back in the limelight after renewed cooperation with the US. How do you think this will help Bitcoin in Cuba?

Fernando Villar: I believe with news of new diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba now is the time that Bitcoin can begin to flourish in Cuba. Part of these new negations are allowing U.S. telecommunications companies to set up equipment and other infrastructure projects needed to improve phone and Internet services on the island. Rig