As cryptocurrency investors nervously watched the value of their assets sink, one of Bitcoin’s greatest boosters announced this week that he was doubling down. Nayib Bukele, the hip, young president of El Salvador, hosted a meeting Monday with representatives of 44 countries to discuss the “benefits in our country” of using Bitcoin—another questionable move for a man who has put his country’s economy at risk to gamble on digital money.
Bukele, a former public relations executive who now leads one of the hemisphere’s poorest nations, has been touting the so-far-elusive benefits El Salvador has gleaned from his controversial move last September to make Bitcoin the country’s legal currency, alongside the U.S. dollar. The Legislative Assembly, which Bukele’s party, Nuevas Ideas, dominates, approved the measure without discussion just three days after Bukele’s announcement, making El Salvador the first country in the world to take such a step.
The millennial president quickly became a hero in the Bitcoin world. But global financial institutions, which are regularly called in to save countries from economic calamity—including self-inflicted ones—raised the alarms and have continued to urge El Salvador to change course, to no avail. Now, eight months into this failing experiment, credit ratings agencies are warning that El Salvador may default on its sovereign debt.