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El Salvador's Bukele: The posterboy for popular authoritarianism
El Salvador's Bukele: The posterboy for popular authoritarianism | GZERO World

El Salvador's Bukele: The posterboy for popular authoritarianism

Here's one country where democracy is on the backslide, and the increasingly authoritarian leader could not be more popular. El Salvador's Nayib Bukele won the presidency at 37, as Latin America's youngest elected head of state, as an outspoken candidate on social media with an affinity for cryptocurrency.

In a wide-ranging interview on the state of global democracy in 2024, Stanford's Francis Fukuyama explains Bukele's crime-fighting appeal: "El Salvador legitimately elected Nayib Bukele as president, but he embarked on this massive effort to simply round up people that he thought were gang members and put them in prison, no trial, no, judicial process to find out whether they're actually guilty or not. And as a result, around 10% of the young men in the country are now sitting in prison. Uh, and it's been quite successful in reducing the level of gang violence in El Salvador by like 90%."

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El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele

GZERO Media

Strongman with a strong mandate? El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele

Since riding an anti-establishment wave to power in 2019, El Salvador’s young, social-media savvy, mano dura (“firm hand”) President Nayib Bukele has tested the limits of his country’s fragile institutions.

He’s sent armed men into congress to pressure lawmakers, harried the opposition with arrests, packed the courts with loyalists, and raised human rights concerns with his jail-first-ask-questions-later approach towards gang violence.

But he’s also done something remarkable: he’s become one of the most popular democratically elected leaders in the world. After three years in office, his approval rating hovers around 90%.

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El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele present the plan of "Bitcoin City."

REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

What We’re Watching: Bukele’s crypto bomb, Somalia needs a president

Has El Salavdor’s crypto experiment bombed?

Mass protests erupted last fall after Nayib Bukele, El Salvador’s youthful, tech-savvy president with an authoritarian streak, announced that the country would begin accepting Bitcoin as legal tender. Many Salvadorans said Bukele’s embrace of the volatile currency would spur inflation and financial instability. Those warnings have proven prescient. In recent days, the crypto world has been caught in a tailspin, in part because global inflation has lowered investors’ tolerance for risk. Bitcoin and Etherium, the biggest cryptocurrencies, have both declined in value by 20-25% this week – and El Salvador is recording losses of about 37% based on what it forked out for crypto in a series of purchases. This has proven to be a disaster for Bukele: two major credit rating agencies predict El Salavdor will default on its loans. San Salvador has an IMF repayment due in January worth a whopping $800 million, and amid ongoing negotiations earlier this year the international lender warned that “Bitcoin should not be used as an official currency with legal tender status.” Still, the enigmatic Bukele continues to double down: this week, he released plans for the Bitcoin city he touted last fall – a smart city based on the use of the flailing currency.

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Crypto fans ignore its ups and downs
Much Ado About Crypto | GZERO World

Crypto fans ignore its ups and downs

In the past few weeks, the value of cryptocurrencies has been slashed by half over fear, uncertainty, and doubt (aka FUD) of US interest rate hikes and new regulation.

That means NYC Mayor Eric Adams, NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers and basketball star Klay Thompson all face pay cuts because they get their salaries in crypto.

Yet, the crypto bros out there have not lost faith.

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Demonstrators holding placards against the government's Bitcoin law while making gestures, during the protest. Thousands of Salvadorans took to the streets on El Salvador's Bicentennial Independence Day against El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele and his government's policies

Camilo Freedman / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

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
El Salvador’s Risky Move to Bitcoin | Future of Singapore Patrol Robots | Cyber In :60 | GZERO Media

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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