06 Apr 2022 · 3 min read

Bukele Returns to Miami Bitcoin Conference as Gangland Crackdown Takes Gruesome Turn

Nayib Bukele. Source: screenshot, Instagram / nayibbukele

 

International bitcoiners will be turning their eyes to El Salvador again this week – but some are concerned that government’s aggressive recent crackdown on gang crime could undermine its standing in the bitcoin (BTC) community.

The nation’s outspoken President Nayib Bukele will be one of the main speakers at the Bitcoin 2022 conference, which will take place from April 6 to April 9, at the Miami Beach Convention Center in the United States. Some 35,000 attendees are expected.

At last year’s event, he rocked the financial and crypto worlds alike when he took to the stage to announce that his nation would be adopting BTC as legal tender. ElSalvador.com reported that some of the promotional images for the conference feature the volcano where the government is currently using geothermal power to mine BTC. Bukele also plans to issue bitcoin-backed bonds to pay for the construction of a tax haven for international bitcoiners – named Bitcoin City.

Some will hope that Bukele, when he takes to the stage, will be forthcoming about details about the bond issuance – which his government had previously claimed would be issued in March this year.

But BTC’s fate in El Salvador could be dented – or perhaps bolstered – by a totally unrelated matter: the nation’s long-running struggle with street gangs. Gangland murders have soared in recent weeks, and Bukele has responded with a crackdown unprecedented in Salvadoran history, with thousands of arrests in recent weeks.

Since late last month, street violence has erupted in the Central American nation. The Guardian reported that “three days of violence” had left 87 dead, with Bukele blaming the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang.

Some 6,000 arrests were made subsequently, and Bukele has asked Parliament to declare a state of emergency, allowing police to make more arrests – with disregard to rights enshrined in the constitution.

Bukele made a state address, shared to his own and the presidential Twitter accounts, whereby he explained that there was a threat that the gangs would respond by killing civilians in retribution. In turn, he vowed, that if such killings took place, he would stop feeding imprisoned gangsters – and essentially starve them to death.

He stated that he would do so with disregard to the likely outcry from “international organizations.”

Some observers suggested that Bukele was straying onto the wrong side of history with his increasingly authoritarian policies.

But others, including some of the President’s more ardent overseas-based bitcoin-advocating supporters, suggested that doing away with the gangs once and for all could rid the country of an issue that has plagued government after government.

Bukele’s move has also won considerable support among many Salvadorans, who responded favorably on Twitter and other social media platforms. Some compared him with Batman – while critics claimed he was secretly moving from “populism to tyranny.”

Bukele, however, has doubled down on the tough-talk, and hit out at international critics.

He stated, per the presidential press service:

“The international community punishes its own criminals with severe penalties, but they do not want us to punish ours. That is because we are their social experiment and they profit from the bloodbath in El Salvador.”

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