by Jacob Silverman, Ben McKenzie from The Intercept
The Salvadoran president paired his bitcoin mandate with policies of mass incarceration and forced displacement.
Ario D it hurts to breathe. The tear gas tossed into his poorly ventilated, tin-roofed prison cell, where he was packed in with dozens of other men, took a while to disperse. He had pain in his side, broken ribs, and other internal injuries yet to be diagnosed. Garcia said he saw five men die in the 24 days he was imprisoned after an anonymous tipster accused him of being a gang member. But he’s grateful — to God, he said, and especially to his president, Nayib Bukele — that he’s free.
Garcia is a 46-year-old minutas, or shaved ice, seller in El Zonte, a beachfront community of a few thousand people in El Salvador that’s being aggressively rebranded as Bitcoin Beach. A potbellied man not much more than 5 feet tall, Garcia is used to pushing a cart through the sunshine, lugging around supplies, selling sweet ice treats to locals and tourists, including Bitcoiners, some of whom are buying up property in the area. Garcia was almost a Bitcoin Beach mascot, appearing in YouTube interviews, tweeted about by influencers, and featured in Diario El Salvador, a government-owned newspaper. Bitcoin Magazine, which has offered extensive, enthusiastic coverage of El Salvador’s use of bitcoin as legal tender, highlighted a sign on Garcia’s cart that read “aceptamos bitcoin,” calling the minutas seller and his wife “Bitcoin pioneers.”
Under the current state of emergency introduced by Bukele and his Nuevas Ideas party, civil liberties in El Salvador have been suspended in the name of fighting rampant gang violence. Now, people disappear in often arbitrary arrests, and families hear nothing. Prisons once open to visitors and journalists are closed shops. Police have triple-digit daily arrest quotas.
The Reserve Bank of Jacindaland is talking about digital currency: this should be a warning it’s a bad idea. —Eds