El Salvador Prepares Regulatory Framework To Issue Controversial Bitcoin Bonds

Will the plan work? Soon, the Bitcoin Bonds will get the legal foundation they need. In a recent TV interview Alejandro Zelaya, El Salvador’s Finance Minister, said they will send the necessary bills to Congress. Soon. Reportedly, El Salvador will initially issue $1B worth of bonds, which will have a ten-year maturity and carry a 6.5% coupon. The bitcoin that backs them will be locked for five years.

The project, announced by President Bukele at Labitconf 2021, includes plans to build Bitcoin City. More on that later. In a scheme worthy of MicroStrategy, El Salvador will spend half of the money on the construction of Bitcoin City and will buy Bitcoin with the other half. Will the plan work? Well, they have to sell the bonds first. And for those to exist, a regulatory framework is required.

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What Did El Salvador’s Finance Minister Say About The Bitcoin Bonds?

In an interview in the local TV show “Frente a Frente,” Zelaya announced the plan’s following steps. Reuters reports:

“El Salvador’s government will send to Congress about twenty bills covering financial markets and investment in securities to provide a legal foundation for issuing bitcoin bonds, Finance Minister Alejandro Zelaya said on Tuesday.”

The Finance Minister didn’t specify exactly when they will introduce the bills. But the will is there. According to El Salvador In English, Zelaya said, “This type of legislation is what we are going to send to the Legislative Assembly to be able to give legal scaffolding and legal certainty to all those who buy the Bitcoin bond.”

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Through the Ministry of Finance’s Twitter, they quote Zelaya being even more daring. “El Salvador could become a regional center where other countries can issue debt, we have great advantages such as having a dollarized economy and pioneers regarding crypto.”

Adding fuel to the fire, President Bukele said via Twitter, “It’s to cover and guarantee the Bitcoin Volcano Bonds, but also a full re-engineering of the economy and of the way a nation state does business.” Not satisfied with that bomb, he added, “Everybody searching for freedom: this is the place to come.”

What About Bitcoin City? Is That A Go?

The Bitcoin Bonds will finance the construction of Bitcoin City, but, what’s that exactly? When President Bukele announced El Salvador’s plans, NewsBTC timely reported: 

“According to Bukele, Bitcoin City will be a full-fledged metropolis with residential and commercial areas. It would also have shopping centers, restaurants, a port, an airport, and railway services. There would be no income, property, capital gains, or payroll taxes. Residents would, however, be subject to just value-added tax (VAT). This tax will go towards paying for the municipality’s bonds, public infrastructure, and city maintenance.”

However, more recently, an investigative report by podcaster Anita Posch cast doubt upon the Bitcoin Bonds and the whole enterprise:

“Apparently, the seemingly advanced plan for Bitcoin City was a collage. “At least some of the Bitcoin City presentation slides were downloaded from the internet and there was no detailed plan behind the announcement.” Not only that, the structure behind the Bitcoin bonds that will finance the whole operation was also improvised. “The way the Bitcoin bonds will work was finally decided only a few minutes before Samson Mow took the stage.”

However, the plan is a go, and Blockstream’s Samson Mow is all-in on it. He recently tweeted the trailer for an upcoming documentary on El Salvador and its Bitcoin City plans. In the tweet, he threw an extremely optimistic, “Bitcoin is going to save the world and it starts here in El Salvador.”

Will the plan work? Is Bitcoin City a real project or a hastily put together mess? Do the Bitcoin Bonds offer a high enough return? Or are the Bitcoin Bonds too risky? Wouldn’t it be better for an investor just to buy bitcoin with that bonds money? Or are we missing something? 

To answer all those questions and more, El Salvador needs a regulatory framework to issue the Bitcoin Bonds. And the roughly twenty bills that guarantee that are on their way to Congress.

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Is MicroStrategy Considering Lending Their Bitcoin To Generate Yield? WHY?

Say it isn’t so! Apparently, MicroStrategy ‘s Michael Saylor is considering lending the company’s Bitcoin. On a corporate level, that makes all the sense in the world. As a Bitcoiner, it doesn’t. So, if MicroStrategy decides to do it, the world will know where Saylor’s loyalties lie. And, this should surprise no one. Saylor has been dropping hints that he intends to do this for a while now. 

Related Reading | Michael Saylor Says Bitcoin Is The Oxygen Mask That Will Save Investors

This all happened, “Thursday on the company’s investor day call with shareholders,” Bloomberg informs.

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What Did Saylor Say In MicroStrategy ‘s Call?

His exact words were:

“There may be opportunities to either put a mortgage against it and generate long-term debt under favorable circumstances, which we could leverage up against the Bitcoin, or we think that we could lend it to a trustworthy counterparty. That could become a good source of income for us, or we could develop it with some kind of interesting applications.”

So, they’re still thinking about it and there are a few options on the table. And, even if they choose to lend the Bitcoin for yield, there are infinite possibilities there. What does “a trustworthy counterparty” mean? Is it just a company that can guarantee yield, custody, and return of their BTC? Or are they talking about a company that’ll use that Bitcoin in an ethical way and not short their own investment?

That’s one of the main reasons hardcore Bitcoiners are against lending. People who borrow BTC usually use it to short Bitcoin. They bet against Bitcoin and drive the market down. Is that in the best interest of MicroStrategy? Will they partake in the activity for the yield alone? Maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll find a use case in which the lender doesn’t use their Bitcoin for nefarious purposes. 

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The other reason Bitcoiners are against lending doesn’t affect MicroStrategy. Hardcore Bitcoiners don’t lend their BTC because they don’t want to lose custody. Self-custody is paramount in Bitcoin culture, and the yield isn’t worth the risk of surrendering your BTCs to another entity. 

If the rumors are true, Coinbase is already the custodian of MicroStrategy ’s Bitcoin. Make of that what you will.

BTCUSD price chart for 12/17/2021 - TradingView

BTC price chart for 12/17/2021 on EXMO | Source: BTC/USD on TradingView.com

MicroStrategy Considers A Bond Option

There’s a second quote in the Bloomberg report that points to yet another option. This one might be more akin to what’s going on in the world, but, what do we know? In response to a question, Saylor reportedly said:

“I think that we’re still a little bit too soon to say whether there’s a good Bitcoin-backed bond market, but I look forward to exploring that in the future,” he said, adding that he would approach this kind of bond offering if it was accretive to shareholders.” 

In other words, MicroStrategy will see how the El Salvador Bitcoin Volcano Bond does, before committing. The eyes of the world are on that investment vehicle, as they’ve been on El Salvador since the country announced the Bitcoin Law. In any case, it should be noted that MicroStrategy is no stranger to bonds. Their “junk bond deal from June (…) currently trades around par, or 100 cents on the dollar, according to Trace bond-pricing data.”

Related Reading | Michael Saylor Brings The Thunder To Venezuelan Bitcoin-Only Podcast

Bonus: Bitcoin As Digital Property

Last but not least, why did we say that Michael Saylor has been dropping hints about the lending of their Bitcoin? Well, in a recent “What Bitcoin Did” episode he talked about Bitcoin being digital property. Perfect. He compared it to a hotel. Ok. In the real world, all hotels have at least 30% empty rooms. That sounds about right. If that hotel could be in the digital world, the owner could rent all of the rooms all the time, because the demand comes from everywhere in the world. Where are you going with this, Saylor? In fact, he said, we could rent those rooms every second of every day. WHAT?! This man is definitely considering lending MicroStrategy ‘s Bitcoin.

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El Salvador Calls Another Bitcoin Dip With 150 BTC Purchase

Bitcoin has now become part of El Salvador’s daily life following the official implementation of the cryptocurrency as a legal tender. Since then, the El Salvador government has pledged to purchase bitcoins and has held up its end of the bargain. Now, every time the price of BTC goes down, the country calls the dip and purchase a significant amount of bitcoin.

In multiple instances spread through the past couple of months, El Salvador has purchased millions of dollars worth of bitcoin. The country had purchased 100 bitcoins during the last bitcoin dip. This time around, El Salvador has taken another opportunity to increase its BTC holdings, adding 150 coins to its coffers.

Related Reading | Calls For Tesla To Resume Bitcoin Payments As Mining Reaches 57% Renewable Energy

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El Salvador Calls The Dip

Only a week after its last purchase, El Salvador has deepened its bitcoin bet again. The decrease in the value of the digital asset has seen the country taking advantage of the presented opportunity. While a good portion of the market panics and believes that it might be headed into a bear market, El Salvador has gone the opposite way made evident by its BTC purchases.

Once again, President Nayib Bukele had taken to Twitter to announce the purchase which took place on Saturday. Bukele announced to his 3.2 million Twitter followers that the country had bought the dip, purchasing 150 coins at an average price of $48,670, bringing the total loot to approximately $7.3 million.

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Bitcoin price chart from TradingView.com

BTC trading below $50K | Source: BTCUSD on TradingView.com

Bitcoin In The Green

Although the move on President Nayib Bukele’s part is praised by many in the bitcoin space, not everyone has been happy with the purchases. There has been a lot of criticism regarding El Salvador’s decision to invest in BTC on a national scale but this has rolled off of Bukele like water off a camel’s back.

Related Reading | SEC Boss Acknowledges That Bitcoin Is A Competitor For U.S. Banking System

Responding to a comment saying that the president was wasting taxpayers’ money on a digital asset that was set to suffer more dips, Bukele explained that the BTC the country has purchased so far has remained in profit. Bukele compared its BTC holdings to its gold reserves which are down 0.37% from a year ago while its bitcoin remains in green.

With its latest 150 bitcoin purchase, El Salvador now holds 1,370 BTC.

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El Salvador Announces World’s First Bitcoin City, Backed By $1B Bitcoin Bonds

El Salvador is currently the only country in which Bitcoin (BTC) is legal tender. This move has witnessed many developments, as well as some pushback. Amid protests, technical glitches, and inevitable market volatility, El Salvador continues to drive BTC adoption.

Related Reading | There Are More People Using Bitcoin Wallets Than Bank Accounts, Says El Salvador President

In its latest Bitcoin adoption move, the Central American country plans to build a city based on the world’s largest cryptocurrency. President Nayib Bukele announced the Bitcoin City initiative at El Salvador’s Bitcoin Week conference on Saturday night. This conference is a celebration of Bitcoin’s mainstream adoption in the country.

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In partnership with crypto firms Blockstream and BitFinex, Bukele plans to issue $1 billion in tokenized USD-denominated 10-year bonds to fund this project.

The Proposed Bitcoin City

Paolo Ardoino, Bitfinex CTO, says the exchange will support the initiative by launching a securities platform to hold the bonds.

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Blockstream Chief Security Officer Samson Mow also clarified the feasibility of sourcing the $1 billion Bitcoin bonds.

“With Bitfinex, they have a lot of whales. I don’t see a problem filling up a $1 billion bond.”

In an announcement by Blockstream, Mow also said that the $1 billion will be split into two parts. $500 million will go towards building energy and Bitcoin mining infrastructure in the region. The other $500 million worth of BTC will be locked up for five years. Mow further stated that after the five-year lock-up period, El Salvador would start selling some of the bitcoin used to fund the bond to give investors an “additional coupon,”

“This is going to make El Salvador the financial center of the world,” he said.

BTCUSD chart on TradingView.com

BTC trading at $58.866K | Source: BTCUSD on TradingView.com

The Salvadoran president additionally said that the bonds will be available in 2022. He plans on locating the proposed Bitcoin City near a volcano. The idea, he said, is to provide energy for both the city and bitcoin mining.

According to Bukele, Bitcoin City will be a full-fledged metropolis with residential and commercial areas. It would also have shopping centers, restaurants, a port, an airport, and railway services. There would be no income, property, capital gains, or payroll taxes. Residents would, however, be subject to just value-added tax (VAT). This tax will go towards paying for the municipality’s bonds, public infrastructure, and city maintenance.

“In #BitcoinCity, we will have digital and technological education. Geothermal energy for the entire city and efficient and sustainable public transport” said Bukele.

El Salvador’s Infrastructure Development Projects

After El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as legal tender, the government started reinvesting unrealized profits into several projects.

Earlier this month, the government announced its plans to use some of the profits from its Bitcoin Trust to build 20 new schools. One of the purposes of these new facilities will be to educate locals about how cryptocurrencies work.

Related Reading | New York Mayor Says Cryptocurrencies Should Be Taught In Schools

In October, President Nayib Bukele had announced plans to use the profits for a new veterinary hospital. However, some criticized this move, arguing that investment in medical facilities for humans was more urgent.

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2.1 Million Salvadorans Actively Using Chivo Wallet, El Salvador’s President Claims

Nayib Bukele, El Salvador president, has claimed that 2.1 million citizens are using the new government-backed Chivo cryptocurrency wallet. In a tweet, he implied the apparent success of Bitcoin in the country.

El Salvador recently adopted bitcoin as a legal tender on September 7, 2021, being the first country to do so.

Related Reading | Just 10 Days After El Salvador’s “Bitcoin Day”, President Bukele Confirms 1.1 Million Citizens Have Chivo Wallet

On Saturday afternoon, president Nayib Bukele shared this update with his 2.9 million Twitter followers. He claimed that Chivo “now has more users than any bank in El Salvador” after just three weeks in operation. He also said that despite Chivo not being a bank, it already has more users than any bank in El Salvador and that it is only a matter of time before the wallet’s adoption surpasses all banks in El Salvador combined.

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El Salvador’s Chivo Wallet

The state-issued wallet launched in early September as El Salvador officially recognized Bitcoin as legal tender. Chivo enables individuals and businesses to send and receive payments in Bitcoin (BTC) or dollars (USD) from anywhere in the world. Merchants must offer the ability to use both currencies. However, some merchants saying they would rather lose sales than accept bitcoin payments.

Related Reading | El Salvador’s Chivo And Bitcoin Adoption In Mindblowing Facts And Stats

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The wallet is available on both Android and Apple devices. Latin American cryptocurrency exchange Bitso is the core service provider for the Chivo wallet. There are now over 200 bitcoin ATMs in El Salvador, the third-largest number of ATMs after the U.S. and Canada.

President Bukele’s goal is 2.5 million Salvadorans, which is approximately 39% of the population. As an incentive, the government offers $30 in bitcoin when people download the wallet app.

Bitcoin Adoption In The Country

President Bukele’s latest update implies that the Bitcoin Law is being received positively by the citizens of El Salvador. However, many protestors have taken the streets to assert their disapproval.

As reported, some protesters even set fire to a brand-new Bitcoin machine, while others held signs reading “Bukele Dictator”. According to the protesters, the president is using authoritarian means to tighten his grip on power. They gathered in the capital San Salvador on the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence, with placards that read “No to Bitcoin” and “Respect the Constitution”.

BTCUSD chart from TradingView.com

BTCUSD chart from TradingView.com

BTC trading at $43.2K | Source: BTCUSD on TradingView.com

Apart from the protests, there were reported glitches during the initial rollout. In the first week, one machine completed only three successful transactions out of many. A lot of Salvadorans also do not trust bitcoin because of its volatility.

According to a recent survey from Sherlock Communications, an agency in Brazil, 54% of Salvadorans are not familiar with Bitcoin.

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El Salvador’s Chivo And Bitcoin Adoption In Mindblowing Facts And Stats

Why didn’t we thought of measuring Chivo and Bitcoin adoption this way? Cero anecdotal evidence. Only facts, numbers, and reports from wherever we can get them. What do we know about the Chivo Wallet’s Lightning node? What apps besides the government wallet are the Salvadorans using? Are they happy with them? Investor and blogger Kevin Rooke has a fresh take on El Salvador’s Bitcoin adoption and we’re here to summarize it. 

“I wanted a deeper understanding of how real people in El Salvador are interacting with Bitcoin, so I went off in search of other success metrics.”

Related Reading | New To Bitcoin? Learn To Trade Crypto With The NewsBTC Trading Course

However, since “the Lightning Network is private by design,” it’s hard to accurately measure “payment volumes and the flow of funds between various wallets and exchanges.” So, what did Kevin Rooke do? He looked everywhere else for hard data about Chivo and Bitcoin adoption. Let’s explore what he found.

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BTCUSD price chart for 09/24/2021 - TradingView

BTCUSD price chart for 09/24/2021 - TradingView

BTC price chart for 09/24/2021 on Exmo | Source: BTC/USD on TradingView.com

The Chivo Ecosystem Is Growing Fast

To measure the Chivo wallet’s adoption, Rooke used the official information provided by President Bukele. Not ideal, but not uncommon either. It’s easier to get info about the Chivo Lightning node because you can check all the public info here. But wait, why is the Salvadorean government running a Lightning node?

“Just like every other participant on Bitcoin’s Lightning Network, Chivo runs a Lightning node. Since Chivo is a custodial wallet, all Lightning payments that Chivo users send to and from other Lightning wallets will transfer liquidity to and from Chivo’s node.”

Through those sources, what did the author find out about the Chivo ecosystem?

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  • At the moment, “Chivo’s node has 12.7 BTC of public capacity.” Which is 1,269,941,898 sats.
  • The Chivo node “ranks 83rd among public Lightning nodes.” 
  • At the time of writing, it’s connected to 58 other channels, but this number changes daily.
  • Back to the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, the Chivo wallet remains at the top of the popularity list, “beating all the most popular social media apps like WhatsApp, TikTok, and Instagram.
  • O bet you haven’t thought about this one, “By onboarding over 1.6 million users in just two weeks, Chivo is likely the most popular Lightning Network app in the world today.

What About The Other Bitcoin Apps? Are They Popular In El Salvador?

Ok, granted. El Salvador’s government incentivizes the downloading of the Chivo wallet app with $30. That has to move the needle. However, when it comes to all the other Bitcoin apps, such an incentive doesn’t exist. How are they measuring up to other financial apps? 

El Salvador's most popular apps, September 2021

El Salvador's most popular apps, September 2021

El Salvador's most popular apps for September 2021 | Source: Kevin Rooke

This infographic says it all:

  • Salvadorans are already showing strong preference for Bitcoin apps over banking and remittance apps on a national scale,” as the graphic shows.
  • To put it in numbers, “9 and 13 of the top 20 apps on the respective app stores” are Bitcoin apps. And Chivo is at number one.
  • Most of El Salvador’s banks and payment processors have user ratings of 2-4 stars,” that’s the traditional banking system for you.
  •  On the other hand, “Bitcoin related apps have user ratings of 3-5 stars.” Even though it’s still early, the facts are the facts. It should be noted that the Chivo app is at the lower end of that spectrum.

Related Reading | How Big Is Bitcoin’s Lightning Network? The Answer Will Surprise You

Besides that, Kevin Rooke identified a truth that might be obvious to some, but has to be said:

“The millions of Salvadorans that have already been onboarded to the Lightning Network aren’t Silicon Valley nerds or early tech enthusiasts. They’re regular people that are making a conscious choice to use the Lightning Network because it saves them time and money.”

And they don’t have to use the Chivo ecosystem if they don’t want to. That’s a fact.

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