El Salvador: Government Supporters Dismiss Bitcoin ‘Protests’
With just days to go until bitcoin (BTC) becomes legal tender in El Salvador, resistance to crypto adoption is continuing – while pro-BTC advocates are dismissing opposition to adoption and looking forward to the dawn of a new financial paradigm.
Reuters (via Yahoo) aired images of street protests attended by “Retirees, veterans, disability pensioners, and workers,” which the news agency stated were “expressing their concerns that the government would start paying their pensions in bitcoin instead of USD.”
The footage showed people carrying signs reading: “No to bitcoin” and “No to corrupt money-laundering.”
Some carried placards printed by the left-wing Movement of Popular Resistance (MPR-12) group, while a number of protesters carried a banner that read:
“The working class rejects cryptocurrencies. No to bitcoin.”
Reuters quoted a member of the Supreme Court of Justice’s workers’ union, Stanley Quinteros, as stating:
“We know this coin fluctuates drastically. Its value changes from one second to another and we will have no control over it.”
But some dismissed the protests and argued that the media had sought to blow them out of proportion. The conservative commentator Jose Valdez shared a video of a small group of protestors and wrote on Twitter:
“The traditional media, which is paid to maintain the status quo, and including international media, are selling ‘protests’ with big headlines… But the reality is this: [The protests amount to] eight people who do not understand what they are opposed to, because they do not even know how it works or what they are they even fighting against.”
Felissa Cristales a popular ARENA party opposition MP, who has famously sided with Bukele on a number of matters, sought to play down talk of protests. She wrote:
“Remember that the government’s opposition will always complain about Bitcoin. Some because they don’t know what it is and others because they want to defend the interests of the banks. Don’t be surprised by this. On September 7, we will start using bitcoin and the doubts will vanish.”
But those who are opposed to the BTC bill will have no doubt taken note of comments from the highest Catholic Church authority in the land – Escobar Alas, the Archbishop of San Salvador – who, in a video shared by La Prensa Gráfica, also expressed crypto doubts.
Alas stated that the public “fears” bitcoin adoption. He urged the government to allay such fears by seeking to educate the public and put an end to the “lack of information” provided to ordinary people on the subject.
El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, meanwhile, was in no mood to focus on voices of dissent – instead taking to Twitter to triumphantly post a promotional video for the state-run Chivo bitcoin wallet, which will roll out on September 7.
Some welcomed the news on Twitter, including @ElisabettaZacc2, who wrote that she “cannot wait”
for the opportunity to use the app to remit money to family in El Salvador without having to pay USD 14 on a USD 100 remittance.
Bukele is hoping to transform El Salvador into a center of gravity for the Bitcoin world, and will hope to achieve this by holding a Lightning Network summit in the nation in autumn.
The event will be titled Adopting Bitcoin – A Lightning Summit 2021, and its masterminds said that its aim was to “bring together the Bitcoin and Lightning communities,” with a focus on “transitioning 6+ million people onto the Lightning Network.”
But Bukele and his supporters might have a few wrinkles to iron out of their BTC adoption plan yet.
The media outlet ElSalvador.com unveiled some of the details of the assistance that the government has requested of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) ahead of September 7.
And the request appears to indicate that the BTC law will just be the start of a crypto-focused legislative drive. Per the report, the government has asked the CABEI to help it hire a consultancy that will create a “deep diagnosis of the bitcoin ecosystem.” The firm should then propose a regulatory and legal framework that would help boost penetration and BTC adoption in the country.
The government wants interested firms to come forward with proposals and says that it will close the bidding process on September 14.
The same media outlet also published a photo essay showing some of the business operators in El Salvador who are currently getting ready to accept BTC – and others who say they oppose the idea.
The subjects ranged from pizzeria operators and a grocery delivery startup founder to market traders selling vegetables and clothing, as well as a cycling store manager and the owner of a BTC-accepting car wash.
Some expressed misgivings about the lack of “education” provided by the government and “distrust” of bitcoin in general. But others were more optimistic, calling BTC adoption an “interesting initiative” and stating that they were “excited” by the government’s move.