‘Bitcoin Willy Wonka’ Max Keiser now works for El Salvador gov’t

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The President of El Salvador has appointed pro-Tether Bitfinex investor, ICO promoter, and self-described Bitcoin Maximalist Max Keiser to a senior government position. According to an op-ed from local outlet El Faro, Keiser and his wife Stacy Herbert are displacing some responsibilities of El Salvador’s official Foreign Ministry.

Keiser currently claims to be a Bitcoin maximalist, despite having personally promoted a variety of tiny altcoins, including Quark (QRK), StartCoin (START), and his own ICO, MaxCoin (MAX). He remains a staunch proponent of Tether (USDT), Tether Gold (XAUT), and Bitfinex. Bitfinex, one of his portfolio companies, has issued three additional tokens: BFX, RRT, and LEO.

This apparent contradiction isn’t particularly unusual. Indeed, with Keiser, things never quite add up.

He purposefully cultivates an outlandish, splashy, and disordered personal brand. Late-night TV host Trevor Noah described him as “Bitcoin Willy Wonka” and his media appearances often include psychedelic imagery and nonsensical rants.

Read more: Opinion: Bitfinex goes full fascist

He and his wife now work for El Salvador’s government.

The duo previously espoused Russian propaganda. Researchers caught Keiser deleting tweets criticizing Ukraine and calling the Russian invasion a hoax.

Tether, Bitfinex, and Max Keiser in El Salvador

In November 2022, self-described dictator Nayib Bukele mandated his executive branch offices to work with Max and Stacy on Bitcoin-related matters.

The executive order creating the National Bitcoin Office implied that it could dilute the power of El Salvador’s Foreign Ministry, which usually handles diplomatic matters. 

Along with their new positions, Keiser and Herbert gained the authority to open El Salvador-backed Bitcoin embassies in Europe and the United States. El Salvador already has one Bitcoin embassy in Switzerland. It also plans to open one in Texas.

Keiser and Herbert: Bitfinex cheerleaders

News of their appointment to the National Bitcoin Office didn’t include information like salaries. However, Keiser and Herbert could easily see the appointment as a way to prop up Bitfinex businesses, including its closely-associated stablecoin, Tether.

President Bukele listed Tether as one of only three acceptable forms of payment for the country’s sovereign ‘Bitcoin Bonds’: USD, bitcoin, and Tether.

As part of their senior positions, they can also control who invests in El Salvador’s digital asset ventures — and suggest which platforms they should use to invest. Bitfinex, of course, is an investment platform; Keiser is an investor.

Furthermore, Bitfinex has several Italian investors and executives and is active in Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland. Bitfinex helped launch a government-backed stablecoin, LVGA, and various Tether and Bitcoin projects in the Italian-speaking Swiss city of Lugano. An El Salvadoran Ambassador appointed a Swiss resident, Josué López, as the country’s Bitcoin Consul.

El Salvador’s ambassador to the United States, Milena Mayorga, referred to Texas as “our new ally” in a tweet. She visited Texas with an entourage that included Keiser.

Bitcoin as legal tender in El Salvador

El Salvador adopted bitcoin as legal tender in 2021. Since then, it has spent as much as $105 million to acquire bitcoin for its coffers. On November 17, 2022, Bukele indicated that El Salvador would buy one bitcoin per day.

Nayib Bukele might buy 365 bitcoin per year using other people’s money.

Read more: Bitcoin ATM startup sues former exec over botched El Salvador launch

While enabling bitcoin as legal tender, it faced challenges such as a buggy state-created bitcoin wallet, a flawed rollout of bitcoin ATMs, and pushback from the International Monetary Fund. It kept delaying its release of ‘Bitcoin bonds’ meant to fund a volcano-powered bitcoin mining venture. The country also announced Volcano Bonds to build a city, the renderings for which were plagiarized from a manga series.

Privately-funded efforts like Bitcoin Beach in El Salvador saw more success in onboarding people to Bitcoin. Previous ‘Bitcoin embassies’ included privately-funded educational centers meant to promote Bitcoin in New Hampshire and Atlanta.

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