Eric Grill sits on the patio of a house with multicolored walls, the cries of nearby tropical birds covering his voice as he exposes the future of bitcoin in El Salvador. Grill, an American with blue eyes and short black hair, is only slightly offended. “It’s like a jungle here,” he says. “There has been a little adjustment but I’ve had this place for a month, I’m here for the long haul.”
A few weeks ago, Grill listened to Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s announcement at a bitcoin conference in Miami that the country would adopt bitcoin as legal tender – and ignored it as the usual political boast. . When the country did pass a law implementing the Bukele promise on June 9, Grill packed up and descended on the Central American country. Despite the slow internet in the house and the lack of hot water, he feels optimistic.
As the CEO of Chainbyte – a company that makes Bitcoin ATMs converting dollars into cryptocurrency and vice versa – Grill decided to move his company’s production here from China. “We had a lot of shipping problems with China,” he says. “We’re going to export them from here to the United States. But we’re going to keep a lot here. He expects that, as the bitcoin law begins to be enforced on September 7, El Salvador’s demand for its machines will increase; it is already receiving requests from several local banks.
The passage of Bukele’s Bitcoin Law has been met with skepticism and concern by virtually every financial institution on the planet, starting with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Bitcoin’s volatility, exemplified by its drop to around $ 30,000 (£ 21,000) this week, after hitting close to $ 65,000 in April, has been castigated as a recipe for financial disaster. Citizens will be allowed to pay taxes in a currency that could depreciate within hours, suddenly emptying government coffers. Confidence in Salvadoran government bonds should be shaken. Anti-corruption experts fear that local and foreign gangs could take advantage of an announced government trust fund to exchange bitcoin of dubious provenance for US dollars – El Salvador’s other currency, with which convertibility will be ensured. But one crowd has enthusiastically greeted Bukele’s initiative – and that’s the bitcoin crowd.
Young, bearded, brash and fluent in memes, Bukele, 39, has always had the role physics to meet the laser eye brigade. Since his announcement in Miami, he has become a regular on bitcoin podcasts and crypto-confabs in English on Clubhouse. Building on his dealings with crypto insiders, he skillfully landed more public relations hits, announcing that anyone willing to invest three bitcoins (today, around $ 100,000) in El Salvador will immediately be granted residency. permanent, and that capital gains on bitcoin will not be taxed. Bukele has also touted the country’s volcanoes as ideal locations for bitcoin miners hungry for cheap geothermal energy amid China’s crackdown on cryptocurrency. The volcano boasting, in all its wicked Bond glory, was to stay, and now a group of bitcoin entrepreneurs are sporting volcanic emojis – alongside the El Salvador flag – in their Twitter bio.
The highlight of El Salvador’s advertising offensive was the invitation of some 30 bitcoin entrepreneurs to visit the country and meet with government officials two weeks ago. Leading the delegation was Brock Pierce, a flamboyant former child actor and current cryptocurrency investor and advocate who ran for President of the United States last year on a pro-tech platform. . (Prior to his visit, Pierce was mocked for tweeting the front page of a Spanish language newspaper from Long Island, apparently about his trip, which was nowhere found in the newspaper’s online archives. The front page finally appeared in the archives two days later, as a “special edition.”)