El Salvador President Nayib Bukele in February.
Jose Cabezas / Reuters
El Salvador has introduced Bitcoin as an official currency as part of a plan by President Nayib Bukele.
Despite Bukele’s strong approval, more than two-thirds of Salvadorans don’t like the Bitcoin plan.
The plan also comes amid a power-grab by Bukele that legal scholars have called unconstitutional and other countries, including the US, have criticized.
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Nayib Bukele, El Salvador’s millennial president, is used to making decisions that ring alarm bells among democracy advocates while triggering little concern at home, where he remains wildly popular.
But El Salvador’s dramatic moves of the past few days have had the unprecedented effect of producing sharp rebukes across multiple sectors in and out of the country, while generating great excitement in the world of Bitcoin devotees. They were thrilled to see the iconoclastic leader make El Salvador the world’s first country to make the cryptocurrency legal tender.
Starting Tuesday, Bitcoin became an official currency in El Salvador, along with the US dollar, whose adoption two decades ago crushed inflation and brought a measure of stability to a country that had suffered wild economic swings.
More on the digital currency in a moment. But first, it’s important to note the context, in terms of what else is happening in El Salvador.
Just days before Bitcoin’s introduction, the country’s top court issued a ruling that essentially overrode the constitution, allowing a president to seek consecutive reelection and thus opening a path for Bukele to extend his presidency.
Earlier, the Bukele-controlled legislature had fired five key members of the Supreme Court and the attorney general, in a power-grab legal scholars called unconstitutional and several democratic countries, including the United States, sharply criticized. The replacement judges, loyal to Bukele, were the ones who opened the door to a consecutive second term in office for him.
Many in El Salvador oppose the introduction of bitcoin as legal tender.
SOPA Images/Getty Images
Separately, just days ago, Bukele’s party passed a series of legal reform bills that, among other things, would remove hundreds of judges and prosecutors, cementing his hold on the judiciary. Enfeebled opposition parties cried foul, while the U.S. Embassy again decried the mounting evidence of “democracy in decline in El Salvador,” comparing Bukele to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Against this backdrop, Bukele, the former public relations executive, was no doubt happy to see world headlines and local attention turn instead to the introduction of Bitcoin and his role as the cutting-edge visionary bringing digital currency to prime time.
Bukele had announced his plan to make Bitcoin legal tender in June, in an English-language video address to a gathering of Bitcoin proselytizers in Miami, where it was greeted with rapturous applause. Within three days of the announcement, the National Assembly approved the controversial plan without any meaningful debate.
Despite the president’s approval rating, which according to most polls remains firmly above 80%, some …read more
Source:: Business Insider