Binance becomes fully licensed in El Salvador, where ‘Philosopher King’ Bukele pushed to make Bitcoin legal tender in 2021 – Fortune


Binance on Tuesday became the first crypto exchange to receive full operating licenses under El Salvador’s new digital assets regulation, almost two years after the Central American country became the first to declare Bitcoin as legal tender.
As Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by trading volume, faces scrutiny from global regulators, its approval by El Salvador’s central bank and National Commission of Digital Assets represents a step forward for the embattled company, even as it’s forced out of other jurisdictions.
In a statement shared with Fortune, Min Lin, Binance’s new head of Latin America, touted the Salvadoran government’s support of crypto, saying that it “proves security and innovation are complementary assets.”
El Salvador’s embrace of Bitcoin has come with its own stumbles. President Nayib Bukele announced the initiative in June 2021, arguing that a new focus on Bitcoin could help drive independence for the country’s economy, which is reliant on remittances and the U.S. dollar, as well as spur tourism and business development.
Electing for a rapid rollout, the launch just three months later—including a government-sponsored crypto wallet called Chivo—was riddled with bugs and fraud. After incentivizing sign-ups with a $30 reward, Bitcoin adoption quickly slowed, with most businesses and residents sticking with fiat currency.
The Bukele administration also promised a $1 billion bond backed by Bitcoin that would help lessen its reliance on multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund, although the measure was delayed as the government dragged its feet on passing digital assets regulation.
While the bond hasn’t yet materialized, the country’s legislature finally passed the law in January, which established the National Commission of Digital Assets. In April, the crypto firm Bitfinex—a partner on the Bitcoin bond project—became the first platform to receive a license under the new regulatory regime. The crypto payments app Strike also received one of the first licenses, with the company announcing in May that it would move its headquarters to El Salvador. Its founder, Jack Mallers, was an early supporter of the country’s Bitcoin initiative.
With Tuesday’s announcement, Binance is the first exchange to receive operating licenses from both El Salvador’s central bank and its National Commission of Digital Assets. According to the company, it now has approvals and registrations in 18 global markets.
Despite its approval in El Salvador, and a recent victory in Dubai, Binance has been under heat from global regulators. In the U.S., it faces lawsuits from both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, plus likely imminent action from the Department of Justice. The exchange has also faced scrutiny from European authorities, with French prosecutors investigating the company for violating anti-money-laundering laws and Dutch regulators rejecting its application to become a virtual assets services provider.
Binance’s approval in El Salvador also comes with caveats, as the Bukele administration faces criticism for authoritarian actions, including a recent crackdown on gang activity and a push for a constitutionally prohibited third term.
Bukele once declared himself the “coolest dictator in the world” in his Twitter bio. It now reads “Philosopher King.”
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