Can QvaPay Break Through Cuba’s Embargo? Or, Is It A Governmental Spy Tool?

The debate around QvaPay is just starting. On the one hand, the app is a solution for Cubans abroad to send money to their loved ones on the island.  On the other, it’s accused of being a surveillance tool for the Cuban Government. Let’s start from the beginning, though. Last week, an article in Coindesk made the rounds inside bitcoin circles. 

Who is QvaPay’s CEO, Erich Garcia Cruz?

In the article “You Would Understand Bitcoin if You Were Under Cuba’s Embargo“, QvaPay’s CEO Erich Garcia Cruz sang crypto’s praises. In it, he states that bitcoin fixes Cuba’s embargo problem. He also touts his own horn, speaks on the problems QvaPay solves and predicts Cuba’s hyperbitcoinization. He also says:

“Before crypto, no tool had been as effective in breaking through an embargo that predates the internet itself.

Cubans may not have Visa or Mastercard, but they have PayWithMoon, which allows us to fund a prepaid virtual card with bitcoin (BTC). They can’t use banks, but found in bitcoin a public peer-to-peer bank. They are not accepted by Stripe, the ubiquitous internet payment network, but can make transfers in seconds through Bitcoin’s Lightning Network.”

Speaking about the Lightning Network, the November 2021 edition of Bitcoinist’s “Latin America, Tipping Point“ features a video of Erich Garcia Cruz using it to pay at a restaurant in La Habana. QvaPay’s CEO will be a speaker at the Bitcoin 2022 Conference in Miami.

About his company, QvaPay defines itself as:

“Your dollar-based digital account.

With QvaPay you can create your online account in digital dollars and start trading worldwide.

An online payment gateway for your personal transactions or for the finances of your digital and physical business.”

However, is QvaPay as innocent as it seems?

Martha Bueno Accuses QvaPay

In the following video, Candidate for Commissioner Miami-Dade District 10 Martha Bueno lays it down. She describes Erich Garcia Cruz as “a member of the Cuban Regime,” and protests his guest speaking role in the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami. According to Bueno, the city host “the largest group of Cuban refugees in the world” and receiving him would be “disrespectful.”

Then, Martha Bueno goes into QvaPay, paraphrasing what she says in the tweet, “QvaPay is an application to send remittances to Cuba, but it is actually very dangerous for Cubans! Instead of receiving Bitcoin, Cubans will receive worthless MLC, or a “Chuck E Cheese” coin, and could face up to 10 years in jail! Beware!”

After that, she denounces QvaPay as a way for the Government to pay tabs on Cubans who receive money from abroad. And qualifies the app as just another tool in the Government’s “arsenal of oppression.” Her call to action is to ask the Bitcoin 2022 conference to rescind Erich Garcia Cruz’s invitation. 

Is Martha Bueno on to something? Or is she exaggerating? Let’s examine her receipts. But first, what is she referring to with “worthless MLC”? According to Cuban Adventures:

“MLC is a term you may hear quite frequently, it stands for Moneda Libremente Convertible, or Freely Convertible Money, which means foreign currency. Although MLC can be EUR, USD, GBP, etc, it is treated as if it’s a currency itself.” 

So, according to Bueno, fiat currencies are “Chuck E Cheese” coins.”

BTCUSD price chart for 03/16/2022 - TradingView

BTC price chart for 03/16/2022 on FTX | Source: BTC/USD on TradingView.com

Martha Bueno’s Receipts

As exhibit A, Bueno shows screenshots of QvaPay’s CEO bragging about having a user’s “IP and cookies” and says: “Erich Jose Garcia Cruz tells the world that QvaPay isn’t “anonymous”. They keep IPs and cookies. Because of the nature of the dictatorial regime in Cuba, this could mean jail time for the people that use QvaPay.”

In the previous video, Bueno said that the jail time could be up to 10 years. Is she exaggerating? According to Diario de Cuba:

“Article 143 of the preliminary draft of the new Penal Code, which the Supreme People’s Court published on its website, establishes that: “Whoever, by himself or on behalf of non-governmental organizations, international institutions, associative forms or any person natural or legal entity of the country or of a foreign State, supports, encourages, finances, provides, receives or has in its possession funds, material or financial resources, with the purpose of defraying activities against the State and its constitutional order, incurs a sanction of deprivation of freedom from four to ten years.”

So, yeah. Political dissidents, activists, and journalists might be in trouble if they use QvaPay as a remittance service. Bueno also translated a tweet that seems to identify Erich Garcia Cruz as “an advisor to the MININT.”

What will happen with this story? Will the Bitcoin 2022 Conference rescind the invitation, double down on their decision or just ignore the accusations? Ignoring the accusations, that’s been QvaPay’s CEO strategy so far.

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