El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele announced in a taped message played at a Bitcoin conference in Miami on Saturday that he would send a bill to the country’s Congress next week that would promote cryptocurrency in the Central American nation legal tender.
The 39-year-old president, who has approval ratings above 90% and made Twitter his preferred form of communication, cited it as an idea that could help El Salvador move forward.
“Next week I will be putting a bill to Congress that will make Bitcoin legal tender in El Salvador,” said Bukele. “In the short term this will create jobs and help enable thousands outside the formal economy and in the medium term financial inclusion. In the long term, we hope that this small decision can help us steer humanity at least a tiny bit in the right direction.”
The US dollar is the official currency of El Salvador. About a quarter of El Salvador’s citizens live in the United States and last year they sent home more than $ 6 billion in remittances despite the pandemic.
Bukele’s New Ideas party has a super majority in the new Congress, which will meet on May 1st, which gives any presidential bill a high probability of being passed.
Further details of the plan were not disclosed. But Bukele noted in subsequent messages on Twitter that Bitcoin “could be the fastest growing way to send $ 6 billion a year in remittances.” He said a large chunk of those money transfers are currently lost to intermediaries and more than a million low-income families could benefit from Bitcoin.
He also said that 70% of El Salvador’s population do not have a bank account and work in the informal economy. Bitcoin could improve financial inclusion, he said.
Due to his high popularity and the dominance of his party in the February 28 elections, Bukele has concentrated his power. The majority of his party in Congress ousted the judges of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court on May 1st. They then replaced the Attorney General.
They had criticized some of Bukele’s more drastic measures during the pandemic, including a mandatory home stay order and containment centers detaining those who violated the policy.
While Bukele enjoys a positive relationship with former U.S. President Donald Trump, he has a much more strained relationship with President Joe Biden’s administration
Last month, during a visit to El Salvador, White House Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle Ricardo Zúñiga said the US government would like to see El Salvador reverse actions against the court and the attorney general. Bukele said that wasn’t going to happen.
Bukele’s concentration of power, attacks on critics and the open disdain for his control of power have raised concerns about El Salvador’s path. Bukele has a broad base of support, however, due in part to the utter failure of the country’s traditional parties that have ruled for the past 30 years to improve people’s lives and provide short-term benefits.
Bukele has been lauded for aggressively receiving COVID-19 vaccines and running an efficient vaccination program that is far more successful than El Salvador’s neighbors.