El Salvador: Bitcoin flop, pseudo-war on gangs


A year ago, El Salvador’s baseball cap-donning president Nayib Bukele declared Bitcoin legal tender in the country—a global first that has been a flop. Since then, Bitcoin has lost half its value. Many Salvadorans, who were dubious on the plan to begin with, cashed in on a $30 government bonus offered as an incentive to download a dedicated Bitcoin app, only to delete it once they received the money. The lack of enthusiasm may have protected people from losses due to Bitcoin’s volatility. But many in the country have still sunk deeper into poverty in the past year. One reason—in addition to the country’s overall financial struggles—is a crackdown on gang violence by the self-described “dictatorial” president that has seen more than 52,000 alleged gang members rounded up since March. Instead of catching criminals, innocent people are being arrested to meet quotas. The majority of those detained may not even have links to gangs, according to local media, and the arrests have left many poor families without breadwinners.

From The New Humanitarian, Sept. 16.

Photo via Twitter

  1. Constitutional crisis in El Salvador

    El Salvador President Nayib Bukele announced Sept. 15 he will run for re-election, despite the country’s constitution prohibiting presidents from having consecutive terms. Last year, after the president’s party won legislative elections by a landslide, the Bukele-controlled Legislative Assembly fired five members of the Constitutional Court and replaced them with loyalists, who later issued a ruling allowing a president to be elected to consecutive terms. (Reuters, McClatchy)

  2. Salvadoran city ‘surrounded’ in anti-gang crackdown

    Around 10,000 troops have “surrounded” the city of Soyapango in El Salvador as part of a massive crackdown on gangs, President Nayib Bukele has announced. All roads leading to the city have been blocked, and special forces have been searching houses for gang members. (BBC News)

    Neighboring Honduras has also just declared a state of emergency to crack down on the Central American gang networks, known as maras.