Bitcoin and Currency in Cuba

I just returned back from a week in Varadero Cuba. The common Cubans I spoke to didn’t have much awareness of the topic of Bitcoin but they’re almost all using smartphones now from what I saw. I had previously visited in 2009 and in 2017 and things are getting more liberal each time. “CryptoMoneda” was mentioned in the Cuban international news in relation to Venezuela’s Petro but I couldn’t get the rest of context of their reporting with my limited Spanish. I might have missed more news about Bitcoin specifically last week as the price volatility has been lower in the last little while. My Bread wallet was able to sync on the throttled/censored ETECSA state-owned internet service but I didn’t conduct any transactions.

Cuba has a dual currency system, where there is a local currency, Cuban Peso (CUP), and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) at a 25:1 ratio. From what I understand, no one outside of Cuba will exchange CUC to USD/CAD/EURO, but that can be accomplished on a nearly 1:1 basis in the country, less a fee, and negotiable premium on the exchange rate. For this reason, make sure you change the money back at the airport as you leave either at the formal “Cadeca”, exchange desk, or with almost any Cuban in the Terminal who will take advantage of any goodwill to negotiate a favorable exchange for themselves. The bus driver, the tour agent, the baggage clerk, the bartender, and other non-officials will all act as Forex dealers in the vicinity of the airport.

Foreigners are forbidden from trading in the local Peso CUP. CUP notes feature People on the bills, like revolutionary Che Guevara, while CUC features Monuments. The heuristic/mnemonic memory aid to remember which currency is which and not to be swindled by getting your change in CUP from your purchase in CUC, is that Monuments are stronger than Man. These Coins and Notes featuring the iconic Che, trade for greater than their face value to tourists as appreciation for the symbolic and social value of his victory in the revolution

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