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Author Topic: Has there been any discussion of setting up a bitcoin exchange in Cuba?  (Read 2700 times)
DavidBAL
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May 09, 2013, 11:12:10 PM
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Has this been discussed at all? From my experiences there, and from what I've learned about Cuba's "ghost" economy, bitcoin could be massively popular there as a means of easily transacted remittance. The country is quickly warming up to private enterprise (palladars, havana vieja, etc) and is in desperate need of some payment mechanisms that don't require 4 different banks in Europe. Most people in Cuba will tell you that the number 1 problem there is the monetary system. Foreigners must use one currency called CUCs, where as Cubans use MD, the divergence in value between the two is majorly distorting the economy... A taxi cab driver or bartender being tipped in CUCs might make 20x what a PhD or Doctor does. Is bitcoin doing anything in Cuba yet?

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May 09, 2013, 11:50:56 PM
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It's a good idea, but risky for those who would do it I'd imagine.

On the sourceforge download page, here:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/bitcoin/files/stats/map?dates=2011-01-01+to+2013-05-09

Cuba has 45 downloads of the client in the past 2 1/2 years - 42% of which were for the linux client, interestingly enough.  So they're aware of it.  My understanding is that internet access is very limited.

North Korea has none listed.  I think that's the only zero.

Even Antarctica has one.

Dankedan: price seems low, time to sell I think...
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May 10, 2013, 12:00:42 AM
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On the one hand people want exchanges set up where they are subject to little regulation.  On the other hand, people prefer exchanges to operate out of jurisdictions where they have remedies available to them if the operators simply shut up shop and take off with people's funds.

Countries which are subject to economic sanctions in place against them are a problem because it's hard to get funds in and out of financial services operating in those nations.  Bitcoin might be good for the people in those countries, but an exchange operating out of those countries could be unattractive to foreigners because of the high risk of their funds being subject to regulatory action and the lack of recourse against shady operators.

All I can say is that this is Bitcoin. I don't believe it until I see six confirmations.
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May 10, 2013, 01:00:53 AM
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Most people in Cuba don't have access to PCs or the Internet. So bitcoin won't work in Cuba at all.

http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=85719

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May 10, 2013, 06:08:58 PM
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Another challenge is finding BTC sellers on your Cuban exchange. Assuming you receive local Cuban currency in exchange for your bitcoins, someone is going to have to figure out how to convert local Cuban currency into something they want. Aren't there capital controls making this difficult?
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May 10, 2013, 07:21:10 PM
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Excellent question. I think things are going to start off slowly, and via in-person exchange. I would expect btc to be more expensive than on a free(r) market, like almost everything else though.
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May 10, 2013, 10:53:38 PM
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Most people in Cuba don't have access to PCs or the Internet. So bitcoin won't work in Cuba at all.

http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=85719

Internet access is limited, but if you set up a satellite connection, and then set up a physical store similar to a western union, not a problem.

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DavidBAL
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May 10, 2013, 10:54:52 PM
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Another challenge is finding BTC sellers on your Cuban exchange. Assuming you receive local Cuban currency in exchange for your bitcoins, someone is going to have to figure out how to convert local Cuban currency into something they want. Aren't there capital controls making this difficult?

 it would definitely rely on Cuban demand... it makes me wonder if there is a large enough market for a shipping company that accepts bitcoins...

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May 11, 2013, 01:04:11 AM
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The thing is, they've got  cell phones in Cuba.  I don't know how smart they're allowed to be (the phones), but I have to believe they do SMS at least.

Surveillance aside, SMS is all you really need to get bitcoin rolling.

Dankedan: price seems low, time to sell I think...
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May 11, 2013, 01:06:42 AM
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The thing is, they've got  cell phones in Cuba.  I don't know how smart they're allowed to be (the phones), but I have to believe they do SMS at least.

Surveillance aside, SMS is all you really need to get bitcoin rolling.

wow havn't thought of this but so true... is there an exchange accessible through sms?

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May 11, 2013, 01:10:14 AM
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this is a gr8 idea
cube is a tourism hot spot
I would love to be able to go to cube for vacation and convert BTC for their local currency
maybe this is where bitcoin ATM could make a big impact.


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May 11, 2013, 01:20:29 AM
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Palestine, North Korea, and Cuba. Hate never dies. Maybe Bitcoin will heal the world.

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May 11, 2013, 05:36:33 AM
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Palestine, North Korea, and Cuba. Hate never dies. Maybe Bitcoin will heal the world.

Always been my thought too, but Cuba in particular has a dispersed global population and lacks the dangerous environment (comparatively).. much easier to set up venezuela to cuba than iran to palestine

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May 11, 2013, 06:03:31 AM
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Palestine, North Korea, and Cuba. Hate never dies. Maybe Bitcoin will heal the world.

Always been my thought too, but Cuba in particular has a dispersed global population and lacks the dangerous environment (comparatively).. much easier to set up venezuela to cuba than iran to palestine

Venezuela wouldn't be much better in terms of risk from the gov't, I don't think.

What's wrong with setting up a US > Cuba exchange of some kind?  The Cuban expatriate community in Florida has had over half a century to hone their surreptitious communications with Cuba.  They've gotten quite good at it by now.  Surely there are some Cubano bitcoiners in Florida who could get it done...

Dankedan: price seems low, time to sell I think...
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May 11, 2013, 06:16:24 AM
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Palestine, North Korea, and Cuba. Hate never dies. Maybe Bitcoin will heal the world.

Always been my thought too, but Cuba in particular has a dispersed global population and lacks the dangerous environment (comparatively).. much easier to set up venezuela to cuba than iran to palestine

Venezuela wouldn't be much better in terms of risk from the gov't, I don't think.

What's wrong with setting up a US > Cuba exchange of some kind?  The Cuban expatriate community in Florida has had over half a century to hone their surreptitious communications with Cuba.  They've gotten quite good at it by now.  Surely there are some Cubano bitcoiners in Florida who could get it done...
Yea I guess I agree about Venezuela..

Concerning Miami -> Havana, financially nothing is wrong- this would work great and is basically guaranteed success. There in lies the problem. My fear has been that it too openly flaunts the trading with the enemy act, and when you became successful enough for the the pro-embargo lobby (which is insanely strong because Florida controls presidential election and Miami controls Florida) noticed you, they might decide to put Bitcoin in the crosshairs. Which in turn would just cause more regulatory headaches rather than help develop btc space... I thought the trick would be to initially start a network beyond just Cuba, (Spain or Russia is a good alternative to Venezuela) and then when it's a little less blatant (because its not just a Cuba embargo loophole but a legit business), and the bitcoin lobby is stronger, then cross the Miami bridge.. those are just my own musings tho... Once you open a btc exchange in Havana and Miami you have effectively ended the Embargo, which is a pretty big deal form a humanitarian perspective.

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May 11, 2013, 06:27:14 AM
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Yea I guess I agree about Venezuela..

Concerning Miami -> Havana, financially nothing is wrong- this would work great and is basically guaranteed success. There in lies the problem. My fear has been that it too openly flaunts the trading with the enemy act, and when you became successful enough for the the pro-embargo lobby (which is insanely strong because Florida controls presidential election and Miami controls Florida) noticed you, they might decide to put Bitcoin in the crosshairs. Which in turn would just cause more regulatory headaches rather than help develop btc space... I thought the trick would be to initially start a network beyond just Cuba, (Spain or Russia is a good alternative to Venezuela) and then when it's a little less blatant (because its not just a Cuba embargo loophole but a legit business), and the bitcoin lobby is stronger, then cross the Miami bridge.. those are just my own musings tho... Once you open a btc exchange in Havana and Miami you have effectively ended the Embargo, which is a pretty big deal form a humanitarian perspective.

Perhaps - rather than looking at it as 'trading with the enemy' - it could be presented to some US agency as a way to undermine the enemy?  They might even be willing to sponsor it...

Dankedan: price seems low, time to sell I think...
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May 11, 2013, 06:35:23 AM
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Perhaps - rather than looking at it as 'trading with the enemy' - it could be presented to some US agency as a way to undermine the enemy?  They might even be willing to sponsor it...

My thoughts exactly, but it's more complex than that (apparently?).

EDIT: some might find this interesting for some of the behind the scenes politics at play here http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950CE7DE1231F93BA35750C0A9609C8B63

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May 13, 2013, 10:53:27 PM
 #18

I'm headed to Cuba at the end of May for two and half weeks and was wondering about exactly this.

I've managed to get two of the first businesses in the UK to take bitcoin and there is a group of about 30 of us in the Brighton and Sussex area who are trading in it amongst ourselves. I'm working on another four business in the south of the UK who might start taking it soon.

I've never been to Cuba before but from what I understand from friends who have been recently the government is getting more and more relaxed about allowing its people to operate and run business and make money from personal trade.

A recent documentary: Cuba With Simon Reeve on BBC2 showed people running their own businesses from a list of permitted business and property ownership along with a small property market that has emerged. Some Cubans on camera even appeared to have smartphones. I can only find an extract of the original program however as its no longer on iPlayer:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0124f49

I normally find it very difficult not to talk incessantly to people about Bitcoin so will have to be very careful about bringing it up over there. Firstly as I'd not want to get any locals in trouble and secondly I'd not want to jeopardise my stay there. My wife and I have been saving to go for 7 years; this is our honeymoon and I don't think she'd be too happy if I got us into any trouble – particularly from going on about bitcoin which is a banned topic of conversation.

One of the main reasons I've always wanted to go to Cube is to observer the communist business practices, many of which have changed considerably in the 7 years we have been trying to go. So I'll post some Bitcoin centric updates when I get back.

In my opinion cryptocurrency uptake by emerging economies could be the key underpinning to establishing it as a widely adopted currency.

I've bought some of the vinyl bitcoin QR stickers bellow off of bitmit to give out to businesses but after some deliberation these won't be going in my suitcase to Cuba.



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May 13, 2013, 11:23:16 PM
 #19

this is a gr8 idea
cube is a tourism hot spot
I would love to be able to go to cube for vacation and convert BTC for their local currency
maybe this is where bitcoin ATM could make a big impact.


Cuba is a great vacation hotspot? Are you a direct descendent of Ernest Hemingway?

Here's what happened when I went to Cuba.

On Entry – I had to get a license or permit from the Ministry of Informatics and Communications for my GPS. Which I was denied so they kept it. I had to fill out a form letting them know about any other electronics I was bringing into the country. I did and they took my  cell phone and my laptop away telling me that I could reclaim them upon departure but when I returned they had lost them and I was shit outa luck.

Here is a short list of other things you are not allowed to bring to Cuba without a permit (which you won't get): wireless fax equipment; telephone boards; data-net devices; wireless telephones except those operating in 40 – 49 MHz, 2,4 GHz and 5 GHz bands; radio transmitters; radio transceivers, including walkie-talkie; professional radio receiver; land earth stations and satellite communications terminals, international wireless equipment, parabolic antennas and satellite phones and this is not a complete list!

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May 13, 2013, 11:27:12 PM
 #20

this is a gr8 idea
cube is a tourism hot spot
I would love to be able to go to cube for vacation and convert BTC for their local currency
maybe this is where bitcoin ATM could make a big impact.


Cuba is a great vacation hotspot? Are you a direct descendent of Ernest Hemingway?

Here's what happened when I went to Cuba.

On Entry – I had to get a license or permit from the Ministry of Informatics and Communications for my GPS. Which I was denied so they kept it. I had to fill out a form letting them know about any other electronics I was bringing into the country. I did and they took my  cell phone and my laptop away telling me that I could reclaim them upon departure but when I returned they had lost them and I was shit outa luck.

Here is a short list of other things you are not allowed to bring to Cuba without a permit (which you won't get): wireless fax equipment; telephone boards; data-net devices; wireless telephones except those operating in 40 – 49 MHz, 2,4 GHz and 5 GHz bands; radio transmitters; radio transceivers, including walkie-talkie; professional radio receiver; land earth stations and satellite communications terminals, international wireless equipment, parabolic antennas and satellite phones and this is not a complete list!


Ok, thanks for this. I was going to get a smart phone to check bitcoin while I was over there, but I think I'll shelve that idea.

When did you go?

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