4 votes

Inside the crypto black markets of Argentina

1 comment

  1. skybrian
    (edited )
    From the article: [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...]

    From the article:

    [...] “cuevas” (the word for “cave” in Spanish) [...] are a crucial part of Argentina’s financial infrastructure. Argentinians are constantly exchanging their pesos (ARS) for other currencies, usually US dollars (USD), and back again because they simply cannot rely on their country’s fiat currency.


    Remote workers sometimes set up bank accounts abroad so they don’t have to bring them back into Argentina (and thus under the watchful eye of the government). They hold funds in places like Payoneer, PayPal, Mercury, or Estonian and US bank accounts, and withdraw just enough in Argentina to pay for the day-to-day expenses. Sometimes these are set up legally, and sometimes they are not.


    However, overseas accounts remain out of reach for many people — setting up bank accounts abroad generally requires traveling there, which is expensive and time-consuming.


    Another use is to pay someone in USD (usually in a stablecoin) in exchange for physical pesos. This is especially true for the “wholesalers” called “cuevas mayoristas,” who are responsible for delivering large amounts of cash to smaller retail cuevas.

    Historically, these wholesalers have had motorcycle couriers who biked all around the city delivering stacks of pesos or dollars to smaller cuevas around town. These couriers wear custom-made vests tucked under their coats that are specially designed to carry the maximum number of bills without looking visibly bulky, to avoid the attention of law enforcement and criminals who might realize that a juicy payday is tucked into every nook and cranny around their chest and legs.

    [...] These couriers are still an important part of the business because Argentina is mostly a cash economy and thus people still need their physical pesos, but crypto has reduced the risk of loss dramatically by reducing the number of dollars they need to carry alongside the pesos.


    Every cueva manager I met said that they and their customers prefer TRON over BTC or ETH or other more well-known cryptocurrencies, primarily because the transaction fees are so much lower.

    They said their customers don’t send them crypto that often, but when they do it’s usually TRON from a Binance wallet.


    Of all the cuevas I spoke with, only one actually manages their own keys. Every other cueva I know uses Binance as their primary wallet for crypto, both for day-to-day transfers and for holding their reserves. Many of them are holding hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in these reserves, which could easily get shut down at any time since what they’re doing is explicitly illegal.


    Additionally, the business owners often depend on younger employees to handle “the crypto stuff.” An Argentinian friend of mine jokes that when you ask a cueva to do a crypto transaction, they call to the back of the office and bring out their “crypto guy,” who’s usually like a 17-year-old kid with a smartphone who knows the basics of the Binance app.

    2 votes