Buterin Calls Mandatory Acceptance of Bitcoin in El Salvador Counter to Crypto’s ‘Ideals of Freedom’

The Ethereum co-founder’s comments appear to refer to an article in El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law, but in reality the requirement for merchants to accept bitcoin is not that clear.

AccessTimeIconOct 8, 2021 at 6:46 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 3:45 p.m. UTC
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Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin criticized the forced adoption of bitcoin in El Salvador in a comment he made in a Reddit forum on Friday.

Writing in a forum entitled “Unpopular opinion: El Salvador President Mr Nayab Bukele should not be praised by Crypto community,” Buterin, under his Reddit user name of vbuterin, said that “there is nothing unpopular about this opinion,” noting that “making it mandatory for businesses to accept a specific cryptocurrency is contrary to the ideals of freedom that are supposed to be so important to the crypto space.”

Buterin’s remarks appear to refer to Article 7 of El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law passed in June, which stipulated that bitcoin must be accepted as a form of payment by “every economic agent.”

However, in July, amid pushback against the mandatory use of bitcoin, Bukele wrote in a Twitter thread that the use of bitcoin as legal tender was going to be “totally optional” and the government would not force any of the nation’s residents to receive bitcoin as a form of payment.

“If someone wants to continue to carry cash, not receive a sign-on bonus, not win over customers who have bitcoin, not grow their business and pay commission on remittances, they can continue to do so,” Bukele wrote at the time.

Despite Bukele’s words about bitcoin not being mandatory, locals remain confused about the details of the new law. “One thing is what the president says, and another is what the law establishes,” a Salvadoran merchant told CoinDesk recently.

According to a survey by the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (Fusades) published this week, more than 93% of Salvadoran companies did not report having any bitcoin transactions in the last week of September.

In his Reddit comments, Buterin added that the “tactic of pushing BTC to millions of people in El Salvador at the same time with almost no attempt at prior education is reckless, and risks a large number of innocent people getting hacked or scammed. Shame on everyone (ok, fine, I’ll call out the main people responsible: shame on Bitcoin maximalists) who are uncritically praising him.”

In response to a comment theorizing that Bukele may be supporting the use of bitcoin in El Salvador because he had bought the cryptocurrency at a cheap price and wanted it to go up, Buterin proposed what he called a “simpler and dumber hypothesis.”

“Both for political reasons and because he’s a human being like the rest of us, he just loves being praised by people he considers powerful (i.e., Americans),” Buterin wrote.

UPDATE (Oct. 9, 18:03 UTC): Changes wording of headline to “Mandatory Acceptance” from “Mandatory Use” to improve clarity.


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Andrés Engler

Andrés Engler was a CoinDesk editor based in Argentina, where he covers the Latin American crypto ecosystem. He holds BTC and ETH.

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