Let's Try Asking a Native Salvadoran About President Bukele, Shall We?

I don't speak for every Salvadoran. Just, you know, the ~85 to 90% who approve of Nayib and get offended when foreigners call an elected president a "dictator."

I saw that Vitalik just joined Alex Gladstein and others in "calling out" Bitcoiners for their support of the "dictator/autocrat of El Salvador" Nayib Bukele. In doing so, both of them are repeating vast swaths of Western media that—interestingly enough—never paid attention to El Salvador before 2021, ignored El Salvador's massive corruption problems, and, by the way, were content to use the country's people as pawns in the fake and ridiculous caravans a few years ago.

The fact that Nayib Bukele is very popular in El Salvador is ignored by everyone. After all, "Hitler was popular too right?" "Salvadorans are just poor, uneducated, brown, or brainwashed," right?

Nope. If you've been guilt-tripped about supporting El Salvador because of Nayib, you my friend are getting a healthy dose of gaslighting.

The "Mystery" of Nayib's Popularity (It's Not a Mystery)

There's an implicit condescension involved in when foreigners just gloss over what Salvadorans actually think. It is assumed "80 to 90% of Salvadorans" support him because... man, I don't know, those poor dears must be brainwashed? Poor dears, they must be getting swayed by a dictator's charisma?

And then they use Nayib's supposed "Dictatorness" to beat the "Bitcoin Maxis" over the head.

Since most people don't know anything about El Salvador, never gave it much thought before 2021, it's easy I suppose to just listen to the mainstream (mainstream is a euphemism for well-funded) opinion that El Salvador's democratically elected, widely supported president is a dictator.

They then shame foreign Bitcoiners for "supporting a dictator" and use this against you.

What They're Leaving Out About El Salvador

So, since I'm actually a native Salvadoran, allow me to point out some things of interest:

Since the war ended in 1992, El Salvador has had 4 previous "democratic" (lol) presidents who actively stole from the country. One of them had to flee prosecution for that theft and is in exile right now. Another is in jail right now for stealing. Another (Flores) was also charged and died under house arrest — there's a popular conspiracy theory among Salvadorans that Flores faked his own death to avoid prosecution, but let's just grant that he's dead.

The president before Bukele was also just charged with... stealing money.

That means, without exception, every presidential administration in El Salvador before Bukele since the 1990s, has gone up on corruption charges.

Up until Bukele's administration, El Salvador had the highest murder rate in the world.

That's because El Salvador's gangs were on habitual killing sprees for years, unchecked, and without anyone particularly caring. Everyone knows someone who was murdered. A man I knew was attacked and murdered at my own doorstep.

In addition to murders, the gangs also blackmailed and extorted Salvadorans with complete impunity. A man I work with was forced to pay hundreds in "rent" (blackmail) to the gangs in his neighborhood. These are already poor people. There was no legal recourse, and those who didn't pay, were simply killed.

El Salvador's governments actively colluded with the gangs.

"In August, prosecutors there showed that El Salvador's two main political parties had colluded with MS-13 and other gangs, paying them more than $300,000 for help winning the country's 2014 presidential election. Party officials allegedly utilized MS-13 to mobilize some voters and suppress others. Still, the attorney general's office has not indicted party leaders."

The gangs were likewise used to sway elections and intimidate voters — yay democracy.

El Salvador also has an entrenched oligarchy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_Families). Not saying "all those rich people are evil" (not the case), but many of them also colluded with the gangs— wealthy neighborhoods were not targeted by gangs, and they're a convenient way to keep the plebs (called campesinos in El Sal) scared and controlled.

These people ^^^ also greatly control and influence the media, and hate Bukele with the fire of a thousand suns. Really, it's stupid to just blindly accept their talking points without looking deeper into things. The people who parrot them are acting like NPC drones.

El Salvador's judiciary, even up to the Supreme Court, was likewise corrupted by the factors I just stated.

El Salvador's police had massive corruption problems for the factors I just stated.

Why Was Nothing Ever Done to Help El Salvador?

The reason nothing was done about these problems between 1992 and 2019 is because it benefitted no one in power to resolve problems that were advantageous to them. Government corruption, gangs murders, repression against the public, etc, are not irresolvable problems—they just need elbow grease.

The attitudes towards El Salvador, both among the powerful within El Salvador and outside El Salvador, were never conducive toward fixing these problems. There's always a certain fatalism that creeps in, as though things are just "meant" to be this way—that benefits the people who benefit from things being this way.

El Salvador was thought of as "just a shit country"; its problems were caused by "Oh gosh, what a tragedy, if only someone could do something"; it was of course "No wonder people to the USA seeking a better life"; people murdered are "just campesinos/peasants" or poor people in general. And everyone was a victim of (a) Learned helplessness and fatalism among many Salvadoran people themselves, (b) Apathy among more powerful Salvadorans, (c) Active exploitation by other powerful Salvadorans—and, let's be honest, outside influence as well.

Nayib Is Not Perfect, but "Optics" Are Not Reality

When Nayib took office (democratically — he is not our dictator, please stop referring to him as such), he made security his first priority because, guess what, nothing can be accomplished while you're being murdered. He stopped arranging "treaties" with the gangs and sent the police to actually arrest the murderers, as should have been done 20 years previously.

Here's where Nayib fucked up though. Since the police were underequipped for that task, not a few of them died. El Salvador's Assembly, who hates Bukele, refused to fund better body armor for them to wear when he asked for it. To emphasize the need for better body armor, Nayib invited police to the Assembly to emphasize the importance of more funding for their body armor..... aaaand got wrecked by the optics of armed police in the Assembly. The images were immediately used by domestic and international press to make it look like he was somehow trying to take over the Assembly with military force. And he's had the slur "dictator" ever since.

Nayib is a young politician, didn't think about the optics, and got played there. Darn.

But so what? This is a novel concept for some, but it does not actually matter what the television thinks. Salvadoran people understand the reality of what took place there, and they know the media in El Salvador is fake and dumb. There's enough experience with media propaganda to understand that optics are not reality.

(And honestly, the fact that Nayib maintains upwards of 90% approval shows that, if anything, El Salvador has far less of an NPC problem than the United States does)

Bitcoiners Should Not Be Gaslit About Supporting El Salvador

The narrative built up around El Salvador is used against Bitcoiners. There's no reason for that. When foreigners support Nayib, they're sharing the same opinion as myself and the vast majority of actual Salvadoran people.

And it's OK if you never heard of El Salvador before Bitcoin became legal tender. Most Salvadorans had no idea what the fuck Bitcoin was in 2021. A majority distrust it right now because, no shit, Nayib bought in right before the bear market lol. And Chivo Wallet sucks. There's a lot of work to educate everyone about Bitcoin, not just Salvadorans—but El Salvador is building and has low time preference.

It's Good for Bitcoiners to Support El Sal

Salvadorans consciously elected someone outside of the two corrupt political parties to (a) Stop appeasing the murderous gangs, (b) Stop allowing political corruption to go unchecked. Nobody called El Salvador's past presidents dictators, even though objectively, by serving themselves, looting the nation, appeasing its enemies, failing to raise a finger to protect its people... what were they? "Virtuous democratic presidents?"

I mean, honestly. If you think that way, we don't have anything to talk about. We're not on the same team. Get a clue because you have the same idiotic mentality that caused the exploitation of the so-called "Third World" for the entire last century.

El Salvador has real systemic problems. Not fake systemic problems you only hear about on TV. El Salvador needs real system reform, led by the actual Salvadoran people themselves who've, frankly, been repeatedly victimized by interests both foreign and domestic. Nayib isn't El Salvador's savior, nor is he treated like one, but he has support because he and regular Salvadoran people want the same things: Sovereignty and prosperity.

And, yes, we do expect Nayib to leave office when his term is over. And no, for obvious reasons, most of us are fine with him having two terms, as in the U.S. There's tons of work to do, and the last thing we want is some asstard from one of the 2 older parties coming in to undo the reforms that need to happen.

It's all quite simple really.

P.S. Again, I don't speak for every Salvadoran—just the vast freaking majority who recognize that undeveloped nations aren't undeveloped because of an act of God, but because people either don't put in the work to develop them... or are prevented from doing so.

P.P.S. And yes, I started writing this initially to vent after seeing Vitalik talking about things he doesn't know about, and turned it into a proper post in the process. The habit of shaming Bitcoiners for supporting Nayib, or Bitcoiners being guilt-tripped over it, is something I've been observing in this space for a long time and have been wanting to address.

related

Can’t fix three decades of corruption overnight. I’d argue El Salvadorans are ready for movement in the right direction more so than a westerner sitting idly by thumbing through social media everyday with their Starbucks. It’s no easy fix, but implementing bitcoin at a national level is certainly a positive sign.

I was in El Salvador in 2009 when the western media was going nuts over the Honduran "coup d'etat" next door. I watched them get every single thing wrong every single time. It was tragic, and I never again have trusted a single word about Latin American politics from the media.

A majority distrust it right now because, no shit, Nayib bought in right before the bear market lol. And Chivo Wallet sucks. There's a lot of work to educate everyone about Bitcoin, not just Salvadorans—but El Salvador is building and has low time preference.

But Chivo has been out for over a year now. At this point, if it can't at least be made to not cause losses for those using it, the entire Chivo network should be taken down and not re-launched until these types of issues are resolved.

Examples:

AMA: I am bitcoin-only, I self custody, I avoid KYC, I run my own node. And yet I've still managed to get #REKT just like crypto people!

A few days ago $80 stolen by Chivo. Today $800 stolen by this bad boy here, in El Zonte. I guess my next step is $8000? Kek.

Athena Bitcoin ATM

https://twitter.com/giacomozucco/status/1593265856955305984 [Nitter]


This couple paid for their hotel bill on-chain (and waited for six confirmations) but the hotel showed a screenshot that their transaction was “cancelled” by Chivo

This is either state theft or gross incompetence

Not your keys, not your coins 🇸🇻 https://twitter.com/Lorinaura/status/1589996933984137216

https://twitter.com/gladstein/status/1590038626901299202 [Nitter]

I know people who use Chivo without problems, and even praise it, and I know people who say they've been "Hackeado" using Chivo. Of course, I also know people who say they were hacked but actually just fucked up using it.

Since I don't trust it and recommend other (open-source) solutions, even to people who use Chivo and like it, I can't really comment much. Intuitively I would suspect a lot of the problem is user error, which is itself a big problem. I know of people sending to the wrong address, and I know of people who just "clicked on a survey link and my money was gone."

It's also entirely possible there are vulnerabilites in the code. It's not like Salvadorans are known for their coding genius.

This to me is the equivalent of stupid things like the various wallet experiments Bitcoiners tried 10 years ago that led to hacker field days. When you get down to the actual work of adoption, this is the sort of problem that needs to get worked through.

I am doing my part adding liquidity to nodes from El Salvador, it is good that people at least know the basic, a qr allow them to be pay in bitcoin, we only need to support diversity in wallets/nodes, the interface will be the same.

A few days ago $80 stolen by Chivo. Today $800 stolen by this bad boy here, in El Zonte. I guess my next step is $8000? Kek.

Note that Giacomo confirmed later on Twitter that he contacted Athena and got the funds returned without issue. Not good of course. But just a technical issue that got dealt with, not fraud. That ATM happens to be right next to the sea so wouldn't surprise me if they're still figuring out equipment reliability issues.

Re: Chivo in general, lots of people think it's not very good. In El Zonte merchants mostly use other (Lightning) wallets. Though the few times I've paid to Chivo wallets it has worked.

30 sats \ 0 replies \ @dad 22 Nov

Outrageous !

Great insight. Can sense the passion behind the words. Wishing the best for El Salvador and as a bitcoiner will always help the best way I can

101 sats \ 0 replies \ @invar 22 Nov

It is kind of ironic that the west can accuse other countries of being dictatorship when the people in the west are the biggest believers in big government than anyone else.

Thank you for this post. I will soon travel to spend some sats and surf some waves in your beautiful country.

We civilized westerners prefer our dictators are un-elected oligarchs hidden from view so we don't know why we are being told to believe the things we believe or who is holding the strings of the puppets we all argue over only so we can pretend to vote every few years to help our belief the reason things aren't going our way and our system of theft and deceit isn't working well for us is of course only our own fault.

I know you're mostly making a quip, but OP specifically argues that Bukele isn't a dictator though.

I'm saying its the fascist westerners who have dictators. Not that bukele is one

I remember when I read the book "El Asco" (2007) by Horacio Castellanos Moya, a novel where he described the decline of the political situation in El Salvador, and How that affected the lives of all Salvadoreans. The book was so harsh on this, that the government of the time declared him "Persona non grata". The author has been living abroad since. I believe the new generations of El Salvador will succeed!

PS: In english the book title is "Revulsion : Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador".

Yes, my uncle knows him. ES is a small world.

The irony of this is that some influencers in the BTC space are dubiously accusing the current president of suppressing dissent and criticism just like Castellanos's, as if he's threatening El Salvador's "oh so thriving liberal democracy." It seems to me they're either ignorant through incompetence or malice.

Really he knows him?? Awesome!!

Sorry I got confused regarding the "Persona non grata" thing. However, the author had to flee the country because of death threats he received after the publication of the book.

Considering such a specific topic, I bet most influencers are poorly informed about it.

I definitely co-sign this

Hey thanks. And I appreciate the work you do, by the way.

You should make this the basis of an article.

Maybe I should, huh? It's funny how a 'vent' turns into a long-form post and then can turn into a full article. I do agree this subject 100% merits it.

HRF/Gladstein is a CIA influence operation, that's only interest in Bitcoin, is keeping it liquid enough to launder money for the deep states private paramilitary clandestine ops.

When I was a kid during the war we'd go to a hotel swimming pool, and there was a nice guy there with perfect American English who gave us swimming lessons. My grandmother later saw him on TV, all suited up and standing in the background of some diplomats doing whatever they were doing.

I can't say "he was CIA" lol but my grandmother sure thought so. That hotel ended up getting bombed, by the way.

Either way, there's no question they've always had an interest and presence in ES. It's just a little creepy.

Yep, Central America is an important corridor for the evil activities... seems Bukele is a big problem for them.

A majority distrust it right now because, no shit, Nayib bought in right before the bear market lol. And Chivo Wallet sucks. There's a lot of work to educate everyone about Bitcoin, not just Salvadorans—but El Salvador is building and has low time preference.

I really hope they can weather the storm and benefit from the next bull run. I think that could be a catalyst that brings more countries into the storm after seeing "wow you really can benefit from using Bitcoin as savings technology". Right now the midwits get to have their day but when Bitcoin goes up the narrative will change in a big way.

Thanks for this in-depth post. I think there are still some things to work on. Education, Chivo, and the perception of why Bitcoin is needed. But that's up to us. We got to be the ones educating people. I can't wait to visit El Salvador soon and get to experience everything in person.

Thank you for posting this! Great read

A similar post appear on bitcoin reddit recently https://old.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/z1br1e/if_you_think_el_salvador_hurt_its_people_at_all/

I wan ES to succeed but is this political astroturfing?

What is the real real situation in ES?

lol no. Coincidence — or possibly he's seeing the same issue I'm seeing & made his own post to address it. I can't imagine I'm the only Salvadoran person annoyed by the narrative.

He's using the wrong platform though. Imagine writing on Reddit. I think I'll send him a message.

If you want to know the 'real real' situation in ES, there's plenty of us online to talk to, or you can visit!

Please share as much as you can!

Sure, there's metric tons that could be said.

I think from my own observations, that part of the "divide" is just natural. There's people approaching ES from the angle of "I just heard about this place a year ago," and there are people for whom ES is memories, faces, streets, events. BTC is nowhere near the sum all of what makes ES the nation it is, but "Bitcoiners" as a self-made tribe are putting a lot of their own hope and stock in ES's success. Which is fine, because so do Salvadorans, but not in the same way.

To them, the "optics" of ES before the international community is very important because it directly affects the future of BTC adoption elsewhere — ES becomes a "prototype." That's valid in some senses, but not in others, and it causes misunderstandings that should (and can) get ironed out.

I think also when Americans/Europeans hear El Salvador has a "gang problem" they think "Like Chicago" or "Like Los Angeles." For a Salvadoran, that's not what it is — it's more like what Americans/Europeans think of when they hear "ISIS" and "Mexican Drug Cartels."

Obviously a lot more could be said about this. SN is a good platform to discuss.

I’m from Venezuela, I wish someday we will have a “dictator” like Bukele instead of our left wing “democracy”

+infinity, awesome