A group of protesters took to the streets of San Salvador this week to demand the "Ley Bitcoin" (Bitcoin law) passed in June be repealed.
Videos of the protest show a small group of people carrying banners that read, "we don't want Bitcoin" and "Bitcoin money laundering law."
The group, which calls itself the "popular resistance and rebellion bloc," voiced its reasons in a letter, writing that the law "was imposed by President Nayib Bukele without consulting the people" and without technical studies.
The group further writes that opinion polls show many people reject the law as it "negatively effects prices and income and only serves large businessmen, especially those linked to the government, to launder ill-gotten money."
While pictures and videos hint at a small protest, a poll surveying 1,233 Salvadorans earlier this month found that 54% of participants regarded the Bitcoin law as "not at all correct," while another 24% viewed it as "only a little correct." Just under 20% of the surveyed individuals were in favor of Bitcoin becoming legal tender. The poll size represents an estimated 0.026% of El Salvador's population aged 15 or older.
Volatility appears to be a main concern for the resistance group.
"Whoever converts $100 into bitcoin could have $50 the next day," it writes in the letter. "It's like playing the lottery, except betting on the lottery is a voluntary act, while Bitcoin is required by law."
In declaring Bitcoin legal tender, Salvadoran merchants will indeed be required by law to accept bitcoin as payment for goods and services. Bukele's administration has said it is working on providing the necessary mobile and internet infrastructure to support the new law. However, the Salvadoran government has also pledged to launch a Trust Fund of $150 million dollars, which will allow its citizens to convert bitcoin to dollars if they prefer not to hold the asset.
"The use of bitcoin will be optional, nobody will receive bitcoin if they don't want it [...] If someone receives a payment in bitcoin, they can choose to automatically receive it in dollars," Bukele said in a nation-wide address in late June.
This will be made possible through Chivo, a mobile app that will allow its users to send and receive bitcoin as well as convert bitcoin to U.S. dollars upon receipt. The app is not yet available.
Yet these exact measures, too, are part of the resistance group's protest. In its letter, it writes, "entrepreneurs who put their capital into bitcoin will not pay taxes on their earnings. In addition, to introduce Bitcoin, the government will spend millions of dollars paid in taxes by the people."
Among those expenses, the group notes the $150 million Trust Fund as well as the bonus the government has pledged to give to every citizen who registers on the upcoming Chivo wallet: "[the government] will 'give away' $30 in bitcoin so that people get the Bitcoin application, which from there on forces them to accept bitcoin for any transaction."
The resistance group also notes the government's plan to install Bitcoin ATMs, mine bitcoin, and work on a satellite infrastructure to ensure connectivity in the areas of the country with insufficient internet connections, "a business that will later remain in the hands of large businessmen from the president's business clan."
Instead of these investments, the group suggests that "millionaires invest in solving problems of poverty among 40% of the country's population."
"Bitcoin would facilitate public corruption and drug, gun, and human trafficking, as well as extortion and tax evasion," the letter continues, further stating that the introduction of Bitcoin would cause monetary chaos, hurt people's salaries, pensions, and savings, and endanger the country's middle class.
The Bitcoin law was passed on June 9th after Bukele became aware of the grassroots movement Bitcoin Beach in El Zonte. The law is set to go into effect on September 7th.