El Salvador’s Bitcoin anniversary
One year ago today, El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender. But the policy has not been popular among Salvadorans and has been implemented poorly. Chivo, the state-created digital wallet meant to facilitate Bitcoin use, had a rollout “plagued with problems. Transactions were slow or failed. Balances disappeared. Most serious were the claims of hundreds of users that their identities had been stolen and someone else had downloaded the $30 worth of Bitcoin bonus. A year in, most of the technical problems appear to be fixed, but skepticism about Chivo as a replacement for cash dollars has not disappeared… Although the government says that 4 million Salvadorans signed up as Chivo users, few continued to use Bitcoin after the initial wave of transactions to use the $30 bonus and after a period of trying out this new app,” writes Tim Muth at El Salvador Perspectives.
Although El Salvador—and President Bukele—have received a surge in international attention due to the adoption of Bitcoin, economic benefits have not materialized. In June, Mashable reported that El Salvador’s Bitcoin investments were “worth roughly half what Bukele paid” after the cryptocurrency’s value had begun to plummet since its November 2021 peak. Some analysts have worried that the country may default, with the IMF unhappy with the adoption of the cryptocurrency as legal tender.
Jonathan Blitzer at The New Yorker profiled Bukele in a new article yesterday, writing that “The budding strongman has ridden Bitcoin schemes and a repressive crackdown on gangs to become Latin America’s most popular leader.” Blitzer highlights that the country’s Bitcoin Law was in part shaped by Jack Mallers, a 28-year old tech entrepreneur, and that non-Salvadoran Bitcoin enthusiasts have been the policy’s most vocal supporters. At the Latin America Risk Report, James Bosworth adds that Bukele has “brought a bunch of the worst cryptocurrency con-artists to the country to engage in scams,” and that “Bukele’s authoritarianism is deepening and doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. He remains popular in the country, though Bitcoin has nothing to do with that. The most likely scenario is that El Salvador’s Bitcoin experiment remains a negative one for as long as Bukele is in office and managing it.”
Rouzed, the Argentine version of 4chan, has been voluntarily taken offline after it was revealed that the man who allegedly tried to assassinate Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last week was a suspected user of the site, says Rest of World. (see last Friday’s LADB)
“The partner of a man suspected of trying to assassinate Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been arrested by police as investigators tried Monday to determine if the attacker was part of a wider plot,” reports AP.
The formal recognition of plurinationality has failed to live up to its promises for Bolivia’s Indigenous communities, writes Thomas Graham at WPR.
Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin suspended Bolsonaro administration policies that have facilitated greater access to guns in the country, citing risks of political violence during the presidential campaign. (Folha, Jota)
Jota outlines the policy proposals for the Amazon from each of the top four candidates in the presidential race. Meanwhile, NACLA notes, “In Brazil’s semi-arid northeast, family farmers are using technology and collective resource management to fight climate change and environmental degradation.”
Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, calls for those with “legalized arms” to come to the defense of the president as “volunteers,” reports UOL.
Americas Quarterly interviews experts about the way forward in Chile, with Loreto Cox arguing, “Chile needs to bolster political parties. Any route of change must include new, party-reinforcing electoral rules, including those for the new Convention that will likely come.” (see yesterday’s LADB)
AP reports that President Boric met with political leaders yesterday to begin an agenda and plan forward: “After the sit-down with Boric Monday morning, Sen. Álvaro Elizalde, the head of the Senate, said that he and his counterpart in the lower house, Raúl Soto, will call for meetings with Chile’s political parties and social movements to start a dialogue that will launch a new constitutional process.”
“Boric now faces dual challenges. Chileans want a reformed constitution, and he must help deliver on its rewriting, amendments and implementation. That is a tall order, and determining who gets to inuence the next draft will be a major political tug of war. Simultaneously, Chileans also want some form of stability and a growing economy. Another two years of chaotic constitutional debate, even if it’s good for the country, threatens to drag down the economy and deplete the Boric government’s political capital, which it will need if it is to succeed with any short- or long-term reforms,” writes James Bosworth at WPR.
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Cuban scientists are working to protect the Cuban Crocodile, a critically endangered species that counts only 4,000 in the wild. “Because the area they prefer within the wetland is relatively small, a climate-related disaster—increasingly common now globally—could wipe out most of the population,” reports Reuters.
Pre-trial detention is widespread and long-lasting in Mexico, even for non-violent crimes, and the country’s “Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on that ‘no-bail’ policy, with some justices arguing it violates international treaties that say pretrial detention should be used only in “exceptional” cases to prevent suspects from fleeing justice.” AP notes, “Activists say an increasing number of Mexicans are forced to opt for a form of plea bargain simply because they are likely to spend more time in a cell trying to clear their names than they would if convicted.”
Normalization of ties with Colombia could be key to economic recovery in Venezuela through trade, infrastructure, and promoting economic diversification, says BBC News Mundo.