The world’s leading cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (BTC), has taken its first step towards becoming a globally accepted currency. In a surprise announcement made at last weekend’s Bitcoin Conference in Miami, the President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador revealed his plans to make Bitcoin legal tender in the struggling Central American nation.
When a collapsing economy forced El Salvador to adopt the US dollar as legal tender in 2001, the country lost control over its own monetary policy. Attempts to recover some economic control through mining have faced opposition, leaving much of the country in a cycle of crime and poverty. Approximately 70% of its near 7 million citizens are without access to a bank account, making it difficult to build personal wealth, receive international remittance, or otherwise improve their financial situation.
Now, 39-year-old Bukele believes Bitcoin can bring financial freedom to his people. Earlier this week, his proposal to make Bitcoin legal tender in the country was approved by a majority of 62 out of 84 votes. The move makes El Salvador the first country in the world to legitimize cryptocurrencies from a governmental standpoint.
“History! #BTC” said the President, in a tweet on 9 June 2021.
Bitcoin Miami 2021 was the largest gathering of cryptocurrency fans in the world, attracting over 12,000 attendees from all around the world. In a speech at the conference, Strike founder and CEO Jack Maller’s revealed the news in an emotional speech, followed by a video by President Bukele. The moment was heralded as “the shot heard ’round the world for Bitcoin.”
Maller’s spent time in El Salvador earlier this year, helping to launch the Strike mobile payments app. The app, which operates on the Bitcoin Lightning Network, makes it possible for mobile phone users to conduct micropayments via BTC instantly and for free. Blockstream CEO Adam Back has also stepped in to contribute to the growth of Bitcoin within the country, offering satellite infrastructure and the use of the Liquid payments app.
To address the environmental concerns that continue to mire Bitcoin, President Bukele is investigating the possibility of powering the network with renewable energy from volcanos. The country already has plans to implement a state-run geothermal energy utility that will harness volcano emissions, and Bukele says this could make Bitcoin mining “very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable.”