This is an opinion piece by Shinobi, a self-taught educator in the Bitcoin space and host of the tech-oriented Bitcoin podcast.
I recently spent a week in El Salvador attending Accept Bitcoin and decided that it might be worth summarizing my perception of the things that I’ve actually had the chance to visit this country.
Since Announcement of Bitcoin Legal Bidding Law in 2021, the topic of El Salvador is deeply divisive in this space. On the one hand, you have people who blindly cheer for President Nayib Bukele and treat any criticism as FUD and misinformation created solely to attack Bitcoin and its use. On the other hand you have people who blindly criticize him as a dictator and human rights abuser and consider whatever positive he is achieving for his country as irrelevant in the face of his disregard for the law.
Obviously, I’m not Salvadoran. I have never lived in this country and the brief time I spent there was not enough to really gain an insight into what life is like in El Salvador, or to really appreciate it. the nature of the problems people have there. However, witnessing everything firsthand in that short amount of time gave me a very different perspective than the one I was completely informed by reading everything over the internet.
Adoption has been slow, but the seed has been sown
I was very skeptical of Bitcoin law when it was first proposed. Mine first post for Bitcoin Magazine it’s really about my concerns about the ways in which the law could have negative and self-perpetuating consequences if Bitcoin adoption happens too quickly very early on. I see the El Salvador government’s promise to convert to USD as something that could fail miserably if Bitcoin becomes the primary means of payment for remittances, effectively undermining the established trust for conversion. to the dollar. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Adoption seems to be a very slow wave in the country, and according to many people I spoke to while I was there, many of the businesses that used to accept bitcoin have actually stopped accepting it in the past year or so. Chivo are still working on the issues, to the point where even today there are still problems with ATMs trying to sell, and terrible UX flows make paying at some businesses that accept BTC an experience. unpleasant experience. It is not a “Bitcoin country” at all, as people call it, in the sense of being able to use Bitcoin anywhere. But the opportunities to use it in El Salvador far outweigh the opportunities in any other actual locality I’ve been to. The plant hasn’t fully grown yet, but it’s clear that the seed is already in the ground.
Bukele is outpacing Bitcoin
However, aside from the debates about the use and acceptance of Bitcoin, Bukele has done quite a bit in the last year. I feel like the people in this space who are rambling on the internet have lost sight of this when it comes to Bitcoin adoption in El Salvador, but what’s being done in this country isn’t just about Bitcoin. Bitcoin is part of the plan, yes, but this is a country more than six million people President Bukele is responsible for whom. His concerns are not and should not be entirely in favor of Bitcoin with his actions at the office. He has the citizens of El Salvador and their health to care. That is his primary concern.
When I was in El Salvador to accept Bitcoin, I met someone who has lived in the country for the past 10 years who only recently got into Bitcoin because of the Bitcoin Law passed by Bukele a year ago. He’s had nearly a decade of experience living in El Salvador as before Bukele, and the reality of it as he describes it is far more brutal than any statistic could paint: traffickers. street vendors were murdered for not being able to pay 16 cents for protection, auctions and looting were rampant, and corruption throughout the government. Gang members would commit murder, get arrested and be sent to the streets within a few months because it was too easy to bribe officials. He often goes to bed when he hears gunfire from rival gangs vying for territory a block away from his home. It was an anarchy that was completely out of control.
I can’t even imagine living in such an environment, and I’ve lived all my life in one of the most dangerous cities in America. All that changed this year with President Bukele declare martial law and an all-out war with the country’s gangs. Nearly 60,000 gang members were arrested throughout the year, and the results were declared.
Murder rate fell sharplypeople will go out at night that most people wouldn’t previously consider a risk worth taking, and Tourism is growing. I’m no stranger to places where you’ve got to keep turning your head and paying attention to your surroundings, but not for a single moment of my week there, I feel like there’s even the slightest possibility of something bad happening. bad. As an outsider, I felt completely safe, and the man I met who had lived there for a decade described today’s El Salvador as a completely different country than the one he moved to. 10 years ago.
Has there been a case of false arrest? Right. Does a problem exist in setting aside the legal process to deal with domestic violence? Right. But what is the alternative that anyone else would come up with?
It’s common for people to be murdered for such a small amount of money here, in the United States, many people will just tell the cashier to keep it because they don’t want to carry that small amount of money in their pocket. Yes, due process is a core element of a stable society, but isn’t the ability to live without worrying about being killed for change? I think it’s very easy for people who are far from a situation to convince those who don’t care how to handle it, to see the situation as some sort of intellectual exercise that should be approached with the goal of finding a solution. perfect law. But the real world doesn’t work like that. Life is always messy and perfect solutions are almost never achieved.
Eliminating the huge gang presence in the country is a prerequisite to truly creating the conditions for economic growth. You can’t have a thriving economy if gangs are going to break in and take people’s money every day. No one from abroad wants to take their money and invest in such an environment. However, the solution being worked on is not perfect right now, it is a solution and it is showing results. NOTUS Energy from Germany stated its intention invest $100 million in energy infrastructure in the country, specifically citing security improvements in recent years as a factor. If Bukele and the current government continue down the path they’re on, it’s very likely that interest in similar investments will continue to grow.
Not an intellectual exercise
Bitcoin law has not led to immediate prosperity in El Salvador, but it is laying the groundwork for that to come. Chivo still has its problems, but with time those problems can be improved and private solutions can be built and adapted to meet the needs of the people of El Salvador. Bitcoin use hasn’t exploded across the country yet, but its seeds have been planted. Likewise, this year’s crackdown on gangs didn’t magically change the landscape of the economy and the country, but it did sow the seeds for something. Removing gangs from the streets has created an opportunity for that economic growth to take place in places where there should be no space. Everything is going in the right direction.
Those looking in from the outside have tried to see Bukele and his efforts as totalitarianism that cannot be expressed in words or as a process of sculpting a utopian dream fulfilled. In my opinion, they are not. He was the one who laid the groundwork that allowed Salvadorans the opportunity and freedom to create their own economic prosperity.
Will it happen overnight? No. Is there a guarantee of a positive outcome? No. But he is trying as best he can to clean up the mess left over from 30 years of corruption and violence after a long time. brutal civil war. Bitcoiners need to step back and realize that this is a real country with real people, not some intellectual exercise for internet debate.
To me, things seem to be moving in a positive direction and I hope they continue to be.
This is a guest post by Shinobi. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.