The Slatest

El Salvador Will Become First Country to Adopt Bitcoin as Legal Tender, President Says

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a news conference at a hotel in San Salvador, on February 28, 2021.
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a news conference at a hotel in San Salvador, on February 28, 2021. STANLEY ESTRADA/Getty Images

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele said he will send a bill to Congress next week to make Bitcoin legal tender in the Central American country. The 39-year-old president, known for his autocratic tendencies and his penchant for Twitter as his preferred mode of communication, made the announcement in a recorded message that was played at a Bitcoin conference in Miami Saturday. If Congress approves the plan, El Salvador will become the first country in the world to formally adopt the digital currency. Bukele is extremely popular in the country and his party enjoys a supermajority in the Legislative Assembly so anything put forward by the president has a strong likelihood of being approved.

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“Next week I will send to Congress a bill that will make Bitcoin a legal tender in El Salvador,” Bukele said. “In the short term this will generate jobs and help provide financial inclusion to thousands outside the formal economy and in the medium and long term we hope that this small decision can help us push humanity at least a tiny bit into the right direction.”

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El Salvador’s official currency is the U.S. dollar and about one-quarter of its population lives in the United States. The money that migrants send home accounts for more than 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Last year alone, El Salvador’s citizens who live in the United States sent more than $6 billion in remittances. Bitcoin could be “the fastest growing way” to get remittances into the country, Bukele said in a series of tweets, adding that “a big chunk of those 46 billion dollars is lost to intermediaries.” He also characterized the decision as one that would help the approximately 70 percent of people who don’t have bank accounts.

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Details on how the plan will be implemented remain scant although Bukele said El Salvador is partnering with digital finance company Strike to figure out the logistics of the move. “This is the shot heard ‘round the world for bitcoin,” Strike founder and CEO Jack Mallers, who introduced Bukele’s video at the Miami conference, said. Even if all the details haven’t been figured out, the announcement appeared to be a boon both to Bitcoin advocates and Bukele. “It is a move which is likely to bolster Bitcoin’s image as the ‘currency of the future’ and President Bukele’s standing among his supporters as an innovator,” notes the BBC’s Will Grant.

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