Bitcoin in Cuba: A Local YouTube Influencer Explains How It Works

It’s hard to participate in the influencer economy from Cuba, but YouTuber Erich García Cruz is making it work.

“We do not have access to Visa cards or Mastercard products because of the embargo,” Cruz explained. “We are monetized through YouTube.”

Bitcoin is one of many tools he uses to turn those dollar earnings, in foreign bank accounts, into rent and grocery money in Cuba. Most of the freelancers around the world using bitcoin as borderless money appear to be programmers or other types of technical workers. However, Cruz is among the slowly growing number of content creators relying on bitcoin as well.

Cruz monetized his tech-centric YouTube channel back in November 2019 and started working with bitcoin around July 2020, inspired by tales from local friends. It’s harder to move around and do business outside these days, in Cuba as it is everywhere. Meanwhile, Cruz said more people in the local tech community are learning about bitcoin.

“Thousands of Cubans buy cards at Bitrefill to consume those digital services by paying with cryptocurrencies. There is no other way,” Cruz said.

Bitcoin in Cuba

It’s impossible to say definitively how many people in Cuba use bitcoin. Brazil-based Cuban expat Claudia Rodriguez said her exchange served nearly 7,000 Cuban user accounts by November 2019. As of August 2020, she said the exchange’s operations there stopped for legal reasons, including a lack of regulatory clarity from the Central Bank of Cuba.

Read more: Cuba Eyes Cryptocurrency as Solution to Sanctions, Financial Woes

“Due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and the new restrictions in Cuba, cryptocurrencies can be an efficient solution,” Rodriguez said. “It is a shame that we cannot continue to support the community at this time.”

Regardless, Cruz estimated there are now roughly 50,000 Cuban bitcoin users in this socialist nation of roughly 11.3 million people. He, like many Cubans sanctioned by the U.S.,…

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