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What We’re Watching: Salvadorans protest Bitcoin, meet Aukus, no COVID pass no job in Italy

Salvadorans protest Bukele, Bitcoin: Thousands of people took to the streets of El Salvador's capital on Wednesday, the 200th anniversary of the country's independence, to protest against President Nayib Bukele's increasingly authoritarian streak and his embrace of risky cryptocurrency. Last May, Bukele ended the Supreme Court's independence; perhaps unsurprisingly, the court then decided to lift the constitutional ban on presidential term limits — presumably so Bukele can run for reelection in 2024. Meanwhile, last week El Salvador became the first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as legal tender, but the rollout was, to put it mildly, messy. The protesters resent Bukele's dictator vibes and warn that Bitcoin could spur inflation and financial instability. The tech-savvy president, for his part, insists that crypto will bring in more cash from remittances and foreign investment, and remains immensely popular among most Salvadorans. Still, Bukele's Bitcoin gamble could erode his support if the experiment fails.

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El Salvador’s risky move to Bitcoin; future of Singapore patrol robots

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

El Salvador becomes the first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender. Is this a risky move?

Well, it is unclear who ought to benefit most of the President's move to adopt Bitcoin. Poor shopkeepers, wealthy investors, or he himself. With arguments that remittances are expensive and the future is digital, President Bukele leapt forward. But the immediate value drop of Bitcoin was a live reminder of the cryptocurrencies' volatility. One silver lining is that others can learn from the lessons that El Salvador will learn under this new spotlight.

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Can the Taliban's non-inclusive government lead a diverse country?

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the Taliban's interim government, Chinese President Xi's efforts to redistribute wealth, and changes Bitcoin will bring to El Salvador.

A week after the US withdrawal, how is Afghanistan in the transition to Taliban rule?

Well, for now we have the transition government. They said it was going to be inclusive. It's all Pashtuns and it's all men. So it is inclusive of Pashtun men that like the Taliban. But of course, that's not the final government. And the real question is, are they going to have ethnic diversity across the country? And does that in any way forestall the likelihood of a civil war? Does it allow them to govern an incredibly diverse and difficult-to-govern country? And of course, I think we should be quite skeptical about that, but at least for now, the likelihood that the Americans or most advanced industrial economies would open diplomatic relations with them and engage with them in a constructive way still seems very, very limited.

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El Salvador’s millennial president bets on Bitcoin

El Salvador will become the world's first country to formally adopt the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as legal tender on 7 September. The move is the brainchild of President Nayib Bukele, a young leader who's eager to shake up El Salvador's economic policy, and is wildly popular with approval ratings of 87 percent. Eurasia Group experts Risa Grais-Targow and Paul Triolo explain how it's all supposed to work.

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Bitcoin's volatility may dim its appeal; China's crypto crackdown

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Should Bitcoin enthusiasts be alarmed at its plunging value?

Well, I can only imagine it makes them a little less enthusiastic, although the value of Bitcoin is still a lot higher than it was a year ago. So I guess the level of concern much depends on when the enthusiasts started to invest in this volatile currency, which is also seeing more and more regulations coming its way. So if people choose to get out now, it further pushes down the value and so on. I'll be watching what happens next.

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What We’re Watching: China’s vaccination blitz, Nicaraguan opposition crackdown, Dems/GOP vs China

China goes big on vaccination: China is now vaccinating about 20 million people a day against COVID, accounting for more than half of the world's daily shots. Following a sluggish initial rollout, Chinese vaccine makers have scaled up production in recent months. That's good news for the world, particularly for developing countries that rely on vaccines distributed through the COVAX global facility, which now includes China's WHO-approved Sinopharm and Sinovac jabs. It's also good news for China's government, which for months has struggled to make its production capacity match its ambitious vaccine diplomacy program (though it has already supplied a whopping 350 million doses to more than 75 countries). And finally, it's good news for the Chinese people, who can travel without restrictions, both inside and outside China, once they're vaccinated. It's not good news for India, which earlier this year had a window of opportunity to compete with the Chinese on doling out jabs to low-income countries but then had to suspend exports in order to address its own COVID crisis.

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Bukele's Bitcoin gamble in El Salvador

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your week with a Quick Take. Hope everyone's doing well. I thought I would talk about El Salvador, a surprising amount of news coming out of this comparatively small country.

First of all, you've got a president who's been in power now for about a year, Nayib Bukele, he's all of 39 years old and 90% approval ratings, pretty consistent over the last year. And in part, that's because there's been massive violence and huge economic problems and extraordinary corruption in the country. And this is a guy who was a former advertising executive, he was a local mayor, and ran with a lot of charisma, with of course, an enormous amount of social media savvy. In fact, if you follow him on social media, he kind of styles himself the Elon Musk of the Northern Triangle, which is not really a great thing I grant you. The Northern Triangle is like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. And I mean, I guess if there is one such person that has to be Elon Musk, he's the guy.

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What We’re Watching: China bans crypto, commandos kill Jesús, EU opens anew

China bans cryptocurrency: China has banned financial institutions and payment companies from processing online transactions in cryptocurrencies. The move, which follows an earlier ban on cryptocurrency trading by Chinese firms, is a clear sign of China's suspicion of any digital currencies that it cannot control. In fact, what China really wants is to promote its own digital yuan that would track every single transaction. Other governments would love to do the same, of course, but they don't have nearly as much financial firepower as China. Meanwhile, the news from Beijing made the price of Bitcoin — the world's most prominent cryptocurrency — plunge to its lowest in three months. Who would have guessed just a couple of weeks ago, when everyone was still frantically buying Bitcoin, Etherium or Dogecoin on RobinHood, that all it would take to burst the digital currency bubble would be an Elon Musk tweet and China.

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