As the first recorded BTC transaction in history between Cuba and the United States is now history, Cointelegraph spoke with Ni’Coel Stark, Managing Principal and Co-Founder at Block26, which recently invested US$450,000 into bitcoin wallet startup Airbitz that was used to perform the milestone transaction.
Bitcoin in Cuba
Back in March, members of the Club Anarcocapitalista de Cuba (Cuban Anarchocapitalist Club; CAC) went on record and explained their mission to Cointelegraph about bringing social and economic freedom with the help of Bitcoin to their local community.
“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.”
In recent months, however, relations between Washington D.C. and Havana have improved dramatically and the nations are on pace to reestablish permanent economic ties after over 50 years of war and conflict.
The US Congress is expected to lift the trade embargo with Cuba and put a stop to travel restrictions between the two countries. This is expected to not only help the island catch up in terms of technological and communications, but also foster a better environment for alternative currencies such as bitcoin to take root.
“It’s about showing Cubans and the Bitcoin community that it is now possible to receive Bitcoin through Nauta, the Cuban state-run public Wi-Fi,” BitcoinCuba founder Fernando Villar told the media. “This will hopefully open everyone’s eyes on the possibilities and finally put Cuba on the Bitcoin map. The idea came about spontaneously.”
“Bitcoin is fundamentally apolitical: it’s a common good for the banked and the unbanked in Cuba, in the United States, and throughout the world.”
- Ni’Coel Stark
Cointelegraph: Why did Block26 decide to invest in Airbitz?
Ni’Coel Stark: Block26 looks to invest in brilliant blockchain companies with untapped potential. Airbitz is a great example. Airbitz's decentralized technology and their innovations in edge security allow for extraordinary possibilities far beyond traditional payments, including potential application in the Internet of Things.
CT: How significant is this first ever legal bitcoin transfer between Cuba and the US?
NS: The USA to Cuba transfer (via Airbitz on both sides) was an extraordinary event. Technology, of all industries, can be the foundation of one of the earliest and most compelling bridges between nations that have been separated politically. And Bitcoin is fundamentally apolitical: it’s a common good for the banked and the unbanked in Cuba, in the United States, and throughout the world.
“[A]s more users in Cuba are sent or purchase bitcoin, there will be further acceptance and increased demand for bitcoin [...].”
CT: Do you expect the thaw in relations between the two countries to continue?
NS: Every public indication from the United States and Cuban governments points to a more prosperous, shared future for our nations. The United States has opened an embassy in Havana. The Cuban government has done the same in Washington DC. It is increasingly easy to travel and trade between the neighboring countries. As a result, we have every reason to believe that the burgeoning relationship will only improve.
CT: Do you see this as a positive step for bitcoin in Cuba?
NS: Absolutely: inexpensive and rapid international remittance is a fundamental use for Bitcoin, and as anyone who has used Bitcoin can attest, the more people using it, the better it is for everyone. Naturally, as more users in Cuba are sent or purchase bitcoin, there will be further acceptance and increased demand for bitcoin with consumers and businesses, just as is happening throughout the world.
CT: Do you expect accompanying infrastructure such as telecommunications and internet to improve in Cuba as a result?
NS: The opening of relations with the United States will undoubtedly accelerate technology and knowledge transfer to the Cuban people. It will be exciting to see what happens when the Cuban people have access to the same level of technological infrastructure as the rest of us.