Bukele, the president who made El Salvador the first country to adopt bitcoin

By Nelson Renteria

SAN SALVADOR, Jun 11 (.) – This week, El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, gained world fame after his country’s parliament approved his proposal and made the smallest nation in Central America the first economy in the world. world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender.

Minutes later, the 39-year-old president proposed to carry out the data mining required by cryptocurrency with the energy of Salvadoran volcanoes: 14 active and six under surveillance out of a total of 170. The announcement, made by Twitter as usual, received comments from to businessman Jack Dorsey, co-founder of the social network.

But it is not the first time that Bukele makes the news. Within his country, the young politician whose popularity is close to 90%, has starred in several events: he managed to reduce crime, broke into Congress with the military, fired officials on Twitter and has been reluctant to be held accountable.

These actions earned him going from being the “coolest president in the world” -as he called himself- to a kind of “millennial dictator”, as his opponents have cataloged him.

Despite his youth, Bukele is not a neophyte in politics. When he worked in his father’s advertising agency, a Palestinian chemical engineer, he was in charge of the account of the former guerrilla Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), then in power.

There was born his sympathy for the leftist party with which in 2012 he won the mayoralty of Nuevo Cuscatlán, a forgotten coffee town near San Salvador that ruled until 2015.

Seeing himself marginalized from the media spotlight and without resources, he made use of social networks to publicize his works. His good management earned him the necessary support to later govern the capital until 2018.

In San Salvador, he soon gained prominence for his social and cultural works and for donating his salary for scholarships.

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In October 2017, he was expelled from the FMLN, allegedly for causing division, violating party statutes and for attacking a trustee with an apple during a council session, an accusation he denies.

With slick hair and thick beard, Bukele is the eldest of the four children of Olga Ortez and Armando Bukele, a Muslim from Palestine, who promoted the construction of some of the first mosques in Latin America. He is married to the dancer Gabriela Rodríguez and they have a little daughter.


In 2019, unable to consolidate his own New Ideas party, Bukele joined the right-wing Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional (GANA), with which he finally won the presidency of El Salvador, ending 30 years of bipartisanship.

During his campaign – almost exclusively through social networks – the youngest president in America promised to end corruption but he himself was investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office for alleged money laundering, fraud and tax evasion during his terms as mayor.

Once in power, his brothers, cousins ​​and other relatives have been taking over some public positions and advising him behind the scenes, raising criticism of nepotism that he has denied.

Bukele’s self-confidence in hiring and firing officials and giving orders to his ministers through Twitter gave him enormous popularity among Salvadorans, tired of decades of corruption and ineffectiveness in the face of the advance of violence and the stagnation of the economy.

“Nayib does an excellent management, we have never had someone who cared about people’s well-being,” confessed Eduardo Samayoa, a 36-year-old taxi driver in San Salvador.

However, some analysts raised their voices for arbitrariness in exercising power by evading formal channels and the automatic disqualification of opponents. But the international community did not pay much attention until, in February 2020 and surrounded by the military, the president arrived in Congress to request that they approve a millionaire loan.

Then, the UN, the OAS and other international organizations criticized the attack and the prestigious British magazine The Economist argued that the Salvadoran “may be on the way to becoming the first millennial dictator in Latin America.”

“If I were a dictator or someone who does not respect democracy, I would have taken control of the entire government tonight,” Bukele confessed to the Spanish newspaper El País.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the president promoted a series of health, economic and food measures to alleviate the crisis, however, these were clouded by refusing to comply with rulings of the Supreme Court of Justice and by complaints of human rights violations.

At the end of February, Bukele’s party achieved a majority in the legislative elections, reinforcing the power of the president, who will now have carte blanche to appoint magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice, the attorney general and other officials, as well as change the Constitution. .

In fact, as soon as it took office on May 1, the new ruling majority of the National Assembly decided to dismiss the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice and the attorney general, accusing them of lack of independence and of obstructing the government plans to contain the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Bukele has many similarities with (Hugo) Chávez and I think that is a warning that we must bear in mind,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas of the International Organization Human Rights Watch, in reference to the late Venezuelan president who, Over nearly 14 years, he amassed unusual power in the oil nation.

“He uses the media and social networks to intimidate, harass and persecute those who may be his adversaries,” he added.

(Written by Diego Oré; Edited by Gabriela Donoso)

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