Cryptocurrencies: when Cubans bypass US sanctions with bitcoin

The Cuban exiles have found the trick to continue sending money to their relatives on the island, despite heavy US sanctions.

In the twilight of his presidency, Donald Trump struck a blow against Cuba. U.S. money transfer company Western Union will close its 407 offices on the island on November 23. Miami Cubans will no longer be able to send money to loved ones in Havana. These transfers (remesas) would have amounted to 3.5 billion dollars in 2019. Foreign banks, for fear of retaliatory measures from Washington, have fled the island. Cubans do not have access to credit cards, nor to American online payment companies like Paypal.

To circumvent these sanctions, the exiles of Florida recently sent their remesas in the form of cryptocurrencies. Cuban-Americans, for example, buy bitcoins for 100 dollars on a virtual wallet. These bitcoins are transferred to a Cuban platform, such as the popular bitremesas.com, managed by a young Havanese computer scientist, Erich Garcia. The sum, converted into local currency, is then handed over to families most often by hand.

Cryptocurrencies are in high demand in Cuba, as they are the only means of payment for making online purchases. Erich Garcia is not content to be a remesas intermediary, he also resells his bitcoins to the highest bidder via Telegram messaging auctions. Bitcoins escape any regulation in Cuba. If by any chance cryptocurrencies become illegal, Cubans, accustomed to the D system, have the habit of saying: “in Cuba, everything ends up working out”.