This is a full transcript of a recent Twitter Spaces debate between Alex Gladstein and Jaime Garcia about whether or not the President of El Salvador is enacting authoritarian policies.
Listen To The Episode Here:
[00:00:05] Q: I am very excited to introduce our guests today. We will start with hi may Garcia, who is a Salvadoran immigrant who lives in Canada now has written extensive articles on the ongoing presidency as well as their Bitcoin rollout.
[00:00:32] Jamie Garcia: I work for an insurance company up here in Canada, just a regular pleb. You know, just a regular Joe earning money and paying for my bills and saving some sats if there's any leftover at the end of the month.
[00:00:48] Q: On the other side of the conversation, we are joined by the chief strategy officer of the HRF, who's written countless essays about how Bitcoin is helping people today. Right now, even though it may not necessarily be in the forefront of how you can use it, as well as the author of just required reading for everyone in the Bitcoin space, check your financial privilege.
[00:01:14] Jamie Garcia: Thanks for the invite.
[00:01:16] Q: I wanted to start by giving you each an opportunity to just sort of have an opening remark about this conversation to establish what side of the coin each of you guys will be discussing.
Then we're gonna dive into Nayib's actions, just Nayib's actions, solely. Then expand that into how his actions are impacting El Salvador and El Salvadorans, and then further expand that into how that's gonna impact Bitcoin.
[00:02:16] Jamie Garcia: Yeah, thanks. And you know, like for me, you know, I'm hoping, rather than this being a debate, it's more of a conversation, a dialogue. And so, you know, being Salvadorian and having lived most of my life outside of the country as an exile from the eighties from the civil war, You know, I can definitely acknowledge that I have a lot of not only societal, but financial privilege.
And so, you know, this situation on the ground is quite differently, but I also have been there. I know what it's like to be there. And I, and I provide perspective of Salvadorian, Salvadorian, who is part of the diaspora, who like many is part of the diaspora, want to see the country progress. And we, many of us feel like Bitcoin's a way to do it.
Right. So, and you know, looking intently into the developments of how the country's tackling security individual freedoms, financial freedom. And for me you know, I'm not like some in Bitcoin, Twitter claim, not a status. I'm not a promoter of B Kelly or his government, but I'm definitely a supporter of when things get done.
Right. Do I have criticisms? Of course, but so far I think that I'll also, there's a good path and you know, I will continue to support if, if it's in this path and if it changes, then I will, my mind, I will change my outlook. And I'll be sure to write about it as well.
[00:03:57] Alex Gladstein: Sorry guys. Thanks for having me. Yeah, I mean, and a lot of my nuance to use on this came from the research and reporting I did last year, which is in a Bitcoin magazine essay called the village and the strong man, which I would encourage. Everyone to check out. At the end of the day, this was all about a handful of really impressive people in the community of Elante who helped get this all off the ground.
And I would, I would really credit that movement as opposed to, to the government. There are a few things that I'd probably agree with that BKA supporters on to start choosing Bitcoin as a second currency, as opposed to some CBDC project or, you know, a Chinese Alliance is, is great. I think that that's something they deserve credit for presenting an alternative to the IM.
Very good. This is an institution that is, you know, sort of ravaged a lot of the world and exploited it, funneling resources from poor countries to rich countries for decades doing mining with geothermal and volcanoes. Terrific, great idea. Let's research and implement that potentially selling bonds based on that very interesting idea.
I hope it works out attacking remittances, which are exploitative and you know, too expensive, et cetera. Great idea. Putting El Salvador on the map. I mean, that's a big accomplishment of que and yeah, obviously no one will be talking about El Salvador, had you not done this. And then finally you know, highlighting the role that the U.S. has had in El Salvador, the devastating role that us foreign policy has had in El Salvador.
These are all things that I would probably, you know, agree with the bouquet supporters on. Then I have disagreements, right? So at the end of the day, you know, the reason I like Bitcoin is, you know, basically because , it's gonna separate money from, from state. I view state adoption of Bitcoin and corporate adoption of Bitcoin as a, as an outcome of its adoption mechanism.
I don't think we need to cheer on government's. You know, that expedites this process. I don't think we need to cheer on corporations necessarily that expedite this process. I think we should just focus on individual freedom. That's what Bitcoin's all about. And, and that's, that's where there's a lot of concern in El Salvador.
I mean, I think what this comes down to probably for Bitcoiners is like, what, what do you, how do. What do you make of the war on terror in the United States? A lot of people listening are probably Americans. I mean, was that a fair trade off to trade off freedom and privacy for, you know, security? In my view, it wasn't, in my view, the war on terror has been a disaster and it's like totally, you know, basically lit our civil liberties on fire.
And you know, I think that what Nayib has done is, is, is, is no different and probably for a lot of Salvador, like way worse. I know we're gonna get into it, but these states of exceptions where tens of thousands of people have been arrested with no trial whatsoever, no legal defense, where minors are treated as adults.
This surveillance state where journalists and activists get sped on through like very expensive software Pegasus these new laws, these foreign agent laws, which, you know, if, if passed would literally confiscate 40% of all foreign income to NGOs and freeze their bank account. If, if he doesn't like what you're doing.
These containment centers that he put people in when C's first broke out where people were being arrested for just wearing face masks and tens of thousands of people were jailed for, you know, a public health issue. And then the fact that he , there were Supreme court justices who were like, no, we don't like that.
And then he like got rid of them and then he's prepping for, you know, basically running for life, you know, he wants to be president for life. So, you know, I think there was a way for que to play this the right way. And he didn't do that. I mean, my, you know, as a closing statement for the opening here, I just would say that I, I think he could've brought the Bitcoin movement to Salvador a little differently.
It didn't need to be necessarily legal tender. It definitely didn't need a Chivo app. He could have just removed capital gains on it and promoted it in a peaceful way. And then he could have stepped off the stage and not. Prepped to run again and violate the constitution. He could have spent 48 years roaming the world as like a, I don't know, Bitcoin Coon, and then maybe run again later, according to the laws of his nation, he doesn't wanna do that.
It's not about Bitcoin for him. It's about power and control.
[00:08:17] Q: So I'd like to start first on just some of his actions, Alex, you've laid out some of his things such as, you know, removing members of the Supreme court going after businesses or people that don't necessarily agree with him. We've seen a lot of reports about, you know, his tough on crime stance. If you, if I can just borrow something from, from the us, and we've seen some of the reports coming out of how much crime is down and how many gang members he's locked up as well as some journalists who don't agree with him as well.
Hi, in regards to some of these actions and reports coming out what are, what are your feelings on this and how do you. I don't wanna say justify, but how do you absorb this information? And I, I'll just sort of like leave, leave a little tail end and let you complete that.
[00:09:07] Jamie Garcia: Well, lemme just begin by saying that I acknowledge and you know, some of the things that Alex has said, I think that we are in agreement with the first set of his list.
I think where we're probably gonna disagree a little bit is in terms of the embellishment of some, some of the, the wording that he's used to, to actually describe some really complex events that have happened in El Salvador and you know, reduced to talking points by mainly his, his opposition.
Right. And one of the things that I think a lot of people don't know in El Salvador is. The vast majority of media is actually control. And if we're gonna talk about, you know, Bitcoin terminology, it's centralized among the ruling elite, the entrenched ruling elite as Alec calls it in his book.
And and they use it as a mechanism to sway public opinion, especially when they see that their interests and their property and their business and, and so on are, are threatened. And and so what happens is that when they're the ones controlling the narrative, especially to towards international audience then that's kind of what we hear and we get reduced to, to to these you know, shocking talking points and and of course, You know, the, the moniker of dictator and so on the reality is that for most Salvadorians living in the country, what they have experienced is drastic reduction in insecurity.
Extortion has decreased significantly. People can go out and enjoy the country, which is a beautiful country and and so on. So I think, you know, we have to be careful because not all, not, not the entire story is being told. Alex pointed out like a, a long list of things. , you know, it's difficult for me to address all of them, but, you know, I can just address the one piece, which is like a lot of these points are being advanced.
By traditional mediums, but traditional papers, traditional channels in the country, which are all either foreignly funded with no actual local subscription, therefore not independent at all, as they claim, you know, one, one of the sources that uses a lot of these talking points. They're their motto is uncomfortable.
Journalism. Just think about that. What is that a euphemism for? I mean, it's basically a tabloid, so we have to be very skeptical when we hear these. Coming from again, the entrenched elite from El Salvador who own these mediums. Right. We have to go down there and listen to the people on the ground and see what they're saying.
And what they're saying is that things are better. Even when you look at polling, you know, polling about security, how do you feel today? Not about que, but just, how do you feel today about your personal security? It's much better than it was before. So there is a tangible improvement in the country's safety and security, which is essential.
If, if Sal's going to attract their diaspora people like me and my family and others, as well as tourists and Bitcoiners and people who wanna invest in the country.
[00:12:37] Q: Hi made, could you not without going into a full history lesson here, but could we get a quick little rundown of the civil war in El Salvador from the eighties and sort of how that led to the two party system that somehow some way que was at one point involved in, and whether you agree with the way he came up was instrumental in my, in my opinion of tearing down this two party system and introducing a legitimate third party.
Could you walk us through just a little bit of that?
[00:13:14] Jamie Garcia: Yeah, definitely. And I would start by saying that, you know, El Salvador has never truly been free, even from pre-Colombian times where the Maka, now it's speaking, you know, people ruled over the the Mayan Thelan and the region all the way to the Spanish, then ruling over, over all the indigenous people.
Then the the, the Creole Spanish descendant, but locally born ruling class, and then the military dictatorships in the early 19th century to then the civil wars never been truly free. The civil war really started because again, just poverty money. the control of resources, the ruling class, which, you know, it's often referred to as the.
The proverbial 14 families, you know, there's more of them, but you know, the 14 families that control everything specifically at that time in, in mid 19 hundreds the production of coffee and the land that produced that golden grain coffee wanted to keep things they wanted to control all, all aspects of the country to secure their investment.
And that led to a massive murder thousands of indigenous people in, in the area of, so and so in the country. That created basically a movement, a gorilla movement, a leftist movement that said, look, you know, like common Salvadorians, just wanna be able to live in peace and freedom and have the ability to earn their living with dignity.
And, you know, at that time it was basically having a plot of land where they can produce their own food. And essentially, I mean, without going into too much detail that led to, to the movement that was against the government right now, the government at that time was a dictatorship. And and, but the us supported that dictatorship brutal dictatorship and, and they, they kept supporting them all the.
Into 1980 into 19 82, 83, when the constitution, the current constitution was installed. And then from that point on, there were several parties. The, the main one at that time was the Christian Democrats, but then really it became just now, which is a right wing party and they control.
Government for, and, and the state for 30 years, 1992 with the demise of the Soviet union with no more funds coming to the left gorilla and really no way out of this through armed conflict, a so-called peace agreement was signed between the government at the time controlled by and the left gorilla, which is an organization called FMLN, which stands for liberation.
Front was one of those leaders of the, of that indigenous massacre that I talked about earlier. And. So then they created that party in, in kind of his honor. And there was Amal an amalgamation of leftist organizations and they signed this peace trading, which basically said that they would give up the arm struggle.
They would become an official party and they would make some amendments to the constitution to allow for that. And and then that's kind of what happened. And then from that point on those two parties they've been swamping, you know, not like, you know, it was like at Ana for a while, and then the FMN, but what people saw was that the sack and the corruption and, and all of the negative things that, you know, one party promised to address through the peace Accords, then the next party, the FML N continued to, to make those similar errors and The population becoming more impoverished insecurity becoming even worse in in 94 with the Clinton administration deporting many Salvadorians from the us, the exploitation of of gang violence.
And you just think about that in, in a it's perfect storm, you know, no jobs because essentially the job before what fueled the economy was war you either employ to be in the army or in the, the gorilla movement and the reconstruction and the sort of like the fighting of war. Then now you have none of that, no risk construction effort, all the reconstruction money go into you.
Corruption and and embezzlement and so on. And then all these young people taking their straight won gang gang warfare from the, from the us down to El Salvador where there's, you know, the economy is in shamble. So a perfect storm and nothing was addressed. And, you know, came to the point where this allowed people with different ideas, like not just que, but many other people who thought similar to become elected in traditional parties at first.
But then when they saw that it was the same corruption that they had seen before they created a new movement, right? Que got kicked out of his party. He formed a new party and, you know, asked Salvadorians to support him, put a platform in place and said, this is what I'm being elected. If, if elected, this is what I'm gonna carry out.
It's called LAN, which is the original name of El Salvador. And and it's online. If you Google it, it's online. Everything that has happened, including the, the reading of the judges as Alex puts it, it's on there. Nothing has been ad hoc or, you know, just policy on the fly. It's, it's been all there from the beginning.
And and that plan was created with the input of all Salvadorians, including the diaspora.
[00:19:09] Q: Thank you. Hi, may Alex going off of, you know, what hi may has shared. I wanted to highlight a couple things that we shared before before we had you two join us. So when BHA ran for his first public office was for the municipality of, and hi, may excuse my terrible Spanish pronunciation, Nevo Kalan
[00:19:33] Jamie Garcia: LAN.
Yeah, that's actually now it's not even a Spanish word's now what word? Novo was a it's new Klan. So
[00:19:41] Q: thank you. So in, in his first mayoral campaign, he won this mayor seat in 2012. Part of his campaign was a promise to be tough on crime. It is reported that this jurisdiction was having 12 homicides a year by the end of his term, as mayor, after three years, there were a total of three homicides.
Obviously the reporting, there may be questions in that regard. There, there, all right. He already threw out the question on this reporting that we were already sort of thinking in the back of our mind. Same with his sort of term as mayor of sent Salvador, ran on a tough on crime approach, wanted to be stricter against gang violence.
And again, ran on a similar approach as one of his campaign promises for presidency. We've seen that come to light. We've seen him follow through regardless of how aggressive we may think his actions are. My question to you is if he is running on this promise and following through on the promise for constituents, is he doing right by them and doing that?
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[00:23:44] Alex Gladstein: That's for me. For, yeah.
[00:23:51] P: Okay. No, that's for
[00:23:52] Alex Gladstein: you, Alex. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, I'm probably obviously the wrong, wrong person to ask. I'm biased. I'm a civil liberties activist. I don't think it's ever acceptable to strip civil liberties from the population. There's no, no condition, you know, Liberty or death, you know, that's, that's my philosophy.
I think that centralizing power in the hands of the military state is bad with no exceptions. When it comes to the Salvador specifics, I mean, clearly gang violence was down before bouquet took power. Clearly it went down a lot more while he was in power at both at the local and, and federal levels.
I, I, I don't know exactly, you know, what, what you wanna attribute to that. Clearly a lot of it is the fact that he's he's, you. Been hyper aggressive about jailing massive amounts of people without due process. And this creates like a fear state among anyone who's like, you know, thinking about causing trouble.
This is, this is what they do in China. Of course. I think part of it is also the fact that he collaborates with the gangs. So, and I, I'm not necessarily opposed to that, but it's just should be said that it's well documented that they even call him Batman. Like they have a word for him that they like in, in all their private communications.
So, you know, if you are only concerned about homicide rate, that's your concern? Then yeah, you should, then, then I would expect you would, you would be totally cool with a totalitarian police state and, and, and you would give up anything to get there, but that's just not the view that I have. And I don't think that's the view that a lot of Bitcoiners have.
I don't think that's a view that a lot of Bitcoiners have. I think that they would prefer a smaller state. I think that they would prefer less states of exception. And, and just to give some details here you know, just think about this carefully and compare it to what you have in Canada, perhaps, perhaps, even where we've seen a decline of democracy, arguably there too.
And certainly in the United States, especially post nine 11, but let's just consider a couple things. So in this state of exception the detainees, like if you're like picked up off the street, You don't get a legal defense. There's no like entitlement for that. The, the, the right for group people to gather in groups of more than two was suspended.
So you couldn't even gather with like three or four people on the street without that being probable cause for being arrested, the minors being tried, an adults thing is just crazy to me. You know, I think that the fact that also that the news outlets were blocked from report even reporting on this, and you could get 10 years in prison, you can get 10 years in prison during a state of exception in El Salvador for writing something that could panic the public.
Right. And again, just to, just to reiterate that that more than three, you know, more than 30 journalists and activists. Who, who were the most problematic for the government, you know, had their phone infected with, with Pegasus spyware. So they were being monitored closely. You know, all of this you know, in combination with the numbers, the sheer numbers, you know, more than 50,000 people have, have been arrested in this like war, you know, war on war, on the gangs.
That's even more than the 30,000 or so that we're arrested in the war on COVID. Right. So you've got this strong man who's I don't know what the next war's gonna be war on COVID war on gangs. God knows what'll be next. They tend to, they tend to like to frame things in a, in a very dire kind of war war, like kind of, you know, linguistic framework this, this is what they, what they prefer to do to basically, you know, try to blame anyone who opposes them as being weak or.
You know, soft this is, this is what they do in America, too. I mean, especially at the local level, I know people listening must know this. You've got these self-righteous police chiefs and governors and, and, and state reps. And, and they want, if you, if you stand up for civil liberties and say, well, maybe we shouldn't arrest everybody, they'll say, oh, you're being soft on crime.
This is like a classic thing in, in government. And I just think it's excessive and it's bad. I also wanted to go into the COVID stuff. Like I would imagine that most Bitcoiners are relatively skeptical of government overreaction to the, the, the public health issue of the COVID virus. I mean, what Buki it was, was literally crazy.
I mean, he had tens of, he had more than 10, more than 10 tens of thousands of people detained, you know, again totally like without this wasn't constitutional. And the Supreme court justice is again, who, who pointed this out were then later fired. I mean he had people in like containment centers. Of course this has been totally flushed down the toilet and everybody has forgotten it and pretended it didn't happen, but it was two and a half years ago.
Wasn't that long ago. Same guy, he hasn't changed at all. I also wanted to talk briefly about the, the Chivo wallet. So again, like there was a path for que to do this Alex
[00:28:26] Jamie Garcia: on, oh, go ahead.
[00:28:26] Q: Good. We will get to the Chivo wallet. I wanna, I wanna unpack the COVID of it. Yeah, go, go ahead. So hi, may Alex has brought up and we've we have since seen certain countries that took, and even certain states that took a very aggressive stance on COVID.
We've seen others that took a less aggressive stance you know, understanding and seeing, I think on the other side, hindsight being 2020 and what COVID. Is now versus what it was then I'm curious if you felt at the Mo at the time that these decisions were being made by que if they were justified, as well as looking back, if this was an appropriate response to what was deemed at the time, a global pandemic.
[00:29:12] Jamie Garcia: Yeah. So, you know, give me a, a, a leader of, of a country in the world at that time who didn't take some sort of measurement that today, looking back looks a little bit like an overreaction, right. And so, you know, I would, you know, I would say that in large part, I, I would not disagree that, that, you know, having the, the benefit of looking back, it probably, there was probably ways to do it.
What happens is that you, you have to judge the country by the ability it has to protect its citizens. And again, you know, it, I know that Alex is very concerned with the rule of law, the constitution of El Salvador states that the primary function of of the government and of the state is to look after the life of Salvadorians.
That is the origin and the end of the entire purpose of of them. Right. And at the time, you know, taking advice from the world health organization from, you know, their own medics, not knowing what we know about COVID at the time. You know, they react that way. And primarily because El Salvador does not have the health infrastructure, like, like Sweden, Sweden, for example, if you look at it, you know, at the time they were being super criticized about it, but you look at Sweden and, you know, Sweden's a modern country, you know, they have the infrastructure and the, the ability to, to deliver healthcare, to, you know, their population in a more and more effective way that El Salvador and most of central America does.
Right. So. They also, you know, have access to medicine and all of that, that and so the decision at that time, you know, according to we were being told was, was because the infras, the health infrastructure of El Salvador, the public health infrastructure Salvador could not handle a situation like they were witnessing in Spain and Italy at the time.
They just simply could not. And in our population, you know, that's, we have a bit of a health crisis too, in terms of diabetes, in terms of, you know, people at high risk for secondary illnesses that may impact, you know, the, the effects of COVID on, on the population. And so based on that, that's, that's why the decision was made.
You know, do I agree with it now? I think there could have been better ways to handle it, but you know, let's not, you know, let's not put El Salvador in a, in, in a corner and judge them alone. Let's, let's look at what everybody else did at the time, including the, you know, certain states in the us and Canada and Europe.
Right. So, I don't know if Alex, if you're familiar with mass flow's hierarchy of needs, right. You know, Maslow hierarchy of needs, you know, at the bottom of the pyramid, are your physiological needs your safe then followed by safety, love and belonging then self-esteem. And then at the top is self-actualization feel when it comes to El Salvador, everybody's judging El Salvador by self-actualization when they're just starting to get their physiological and safety needs in order.
So, you know, let's. Maybe pause about it, let's check our financial privilege and let's look at everything within context. I wanna just
[00:33:00] P: jump in and push back a little bit there, because I think that Alex's point is that the extremes to which the Salvador and government went during, for example, COVID seems disproportionate given the the situation.
And I think that, you know, people are very, very, or were very, very quick to to kind of castigate China's behavior during this period, you know? And they were, there were videos of people, them like welding building shit. Everybody was like, oh my gosh, this is, this is so intense. This is horrible. And there was a lot of fear involved tutoring that period because people didn't know exactly what was going on and everybody was trying to figure it out.
But I think that to Alex's point, these types of situations are. Or can be very convenient when one is trying to, you know, suppress the movement of a people and control information flow in a group of people in order to serve different ends. And so, I, I, I do think it's, it is, it is I don't think anyone should be trying to justify those kinds of actions within like a context of sort of like public safety.
Cuz I think that regardless, I feel like most Bitcoiners at least would argue that like, you know, we should be able to move freely and, and conduct ourselves as we, as we would like. But, but I feel like with El Salvador, because Bitcoin is involved, people tend to, I don't wanna say turn blind eye, but use kind of kid gloves in a way that I think is, is, is interesting and counterproductive.
[00:34:24] Jamie Garcia: Well as a Bitcoin, I would tend to agree with you, but you know, as. As, as a decision maker for the entire country and health, and not really knowing if this thing is like, you know, as bad as it could be, you know, I can also understand why things were done the way that they were. I mean, you know, yeah.
Things could have been done better on that, on that, but again, we we're, we're two years out from that. And and let's remember that El Salvador was one of the first country to give up all restrictions, you know? And you know, I just recently saw one of the things that. One, a tweet from a, a Bitcoin or that was leaving El Salvador from Mexico.