In El Salvador, the Libertarian River of Bitcoin Meets the Autocratic Authority

In early June, a pre-recorded video informed the citizens of El Salvador that they were about to take part in a major pilot project. The speaker was Nayib Bukele, the 40-year-old President, who announced his plan for a better future: Bitcoin. The crypto currency it will be legal in the country, he said – a global initiative that will elevate the country to the same level as the US dollar, the El Salvador national currency since 2001. This will benefit the unemployed, he added, and those left behind by banks. . But thanks to a program to help the needy Salvadorans, they did not show up; Bukele did not even speak Spanish. Instead, the message was played by a thriving group of Bitcoin lovers around the world at a conference in Miami.

In the capital city of San Salvador, Mario Gomez, an interesting 36-year-old developer and founder of “destructive” sites for his fellow coders, was suspicious. “I’m not at all satisfied with what these people are selling,” he later explained. A lover of open technology, he does not consider himself an enemy of Bitcoin, but he is frustrated with the way the government seems to be harassing its people. Then he went on Twitter. Over the next few weeks, his opposition to the process grew, as did the consequences.

A Chivo ATM for El Salvador national Bitcoin app in Oakland, California.

Photo: Cady Voge

On August 31, Gomez posted several leaked photos of a program called Chivo, an upcoming Bitcoin wallet, along with protests. The next morning, she was driving her mother to work, as usual, when she was pulled over by the local police. There was a problem with his car, the police told him, although they could not tell him his problem. Gomez remembers being more confused than scared. He quickly wrote a message to his nearly 8,000 Twitter followers before taking his phone. Her mother photographed her after she was lifted from the bed of a police car, which took her to a nearby station and then to another, where she allegedly barred her from seeing a lawyer. Meanwhile, a protest grew on Twitter demanding his release. Six hours later, the authorities let her go.

Salvadoran police say Gomez is being investigated on unknown financial charges, although no charges have been filed. Gomez and Cristosal’s lawyers, a civil rights group representing him, said his detention was linked to Chivo’s remarks and was a threat to publicity. Her phone has not been returned, but she has returned to Twitter, where she insists she is still a person giving opinions about her work. They find it strange. Bitcoin has long been used as a symbol of freedom from banks and governments. And yet, in a way, to challenge his country to embrace Bitcoin, Gomez became an unwilling political opponent. Police in the country have not responded to a request for comment.

A Mighty Man Appears

The June Bitcoin Bukele announcement came as it strengthened its strengths. The first sign of a strong man coming is seen last year, after he lost the legal vote, he entered the country’s Parliament led by armed police. Sitting in the presidential seat, Bukele prayed to God, who later said he had told him to be patient. He did not have to wait long. In May, after a landslide victory in parliament, Bukele’s union voted to remove the attorney general and all five members of the country’s highest court and replace the faithful. Soon, Bukele expanded his term of presidency beyond his means.

The coup d’état in El Salvador has sparked warnings from the US, which has allowed Bukele’s allies for corruption and will shift support from government to civil society groups. But within El Salvador, Bukele is still popular, with elections placing more than 80 percent of its approval. For a time he changed his Twitter profile to become “the most dictator in the world.” (Now he says “CEO of El Salvador.”) “I think, a religion of humanity is a matter of concern to many because it reminds us of many Latin people. military officers the past, ”says Eduardo Gamarra, a political scientist at Florida International University.

Bukele has touted Bitcoin as an opportunity for the people of Salvador, especially as a way to circumvent the massive U.S. dollar-earning foreign exchange, a movement that represents almost a quarter of El Salvador’s wealth. He boldly predicted that the price of Bitcoin would rise, bringing the country’s economy closer. But despite Bukele’s popularity, Salvador’s ordinary people do not seem to know who to benefit from. A September study found this more than two-thirds Salvadorans oppose the “Bitcoin Act,” and protests against the use of tax money to buy cryptocurrency currencies have raised thousands. Protesters like Gomez say the government has moved too fast and the victims who Bukele says he wants to help are the ones who could lose the most money. In the study, those who responded to Bitcoin’s major concerns were its instability and that they did not know how to use it.

But Bitcoin efforts are only getting bigger in recent months – much of it is driven by Bukele’s Twitter account. The government is pushing for ways to attract foreign investors, including $ 1 billion in Bitcoin-sponsored investments, financial institutions with sloppy laws, tax breaks, and the permanent resilience of big investors. These plans have been developed primarily by a small group of presidential advisers, many of whom are outsiders, according to the people interviewed.

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