Home » El Salvador Police Detained and Subsequently Released a Bitcoin Critic Without a Warrant

El Salvador Police Detained and Subsequently Released a Bitcoin Critic Without a Warrant

by Brian Armstrong
El Salvador Police Detained and Subsequently Released a Bitcoin Critic Without a Warrant

A computer and cryptocurrency expert who didn’t like how El Salvador accepted Bitcoin as legal currency was reportedly arrested by local police and held for hours before being let go, according to a Salvadoran news station.

According to interviews published by La Prensa Gráfica, on Wednesday, police in San Salvador detained Mario Gómez, a computer expert, without a warrant, confiscated his phone, and attempted to steal a computer from his mother, Elena de Gomez. National Civil Police (PNC) said in a statement that Gómez was arrested in connection with a financial fraud probe. Attorney Otto Flores said that Gómez was released from custody later that day.

His mother said, “[Mario] talks about the government in forums, at events, on social networks, and in other places.” As human beings, we have the right to speak up if we feel that our country is heading in the wrong direction.

Social media posts by Gómez have been consistent in voicing his disapproval of the law that will make bitcoin legal cash in El Salvador on September 7. In his tweets, he claims that the government’s Bitcoin wallet “Chivo” may be linked to the same Bitcoin address as the major Twitter attack in July 2020. Stickers saying “No Al Bitcoin” (No To Bitcoin) are also available for purchase by his thousands of fans.

Since the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador passed a bill that requires Bitcoin to be accepted as legal cash alongside the U.S. dollar, there have been at least two big rallies in San Salvador. President Nayib Bukele said he wanted to pass such a law at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in June, but he later made it clear that Salvadorans could choose not to use cryptocurrency if they wanted to.

When they heard of his arrest, Gómez’s fans took to Twitter to demand that he be released. An economist at Johns Hopkins University, Steve Hanke, called the PNC’s action “authoritarian policing techniques in operation.” As a member of the Legislative Assembly, Anabel Belloso suggested that the government was making up allegations against Gómez.

Héctor Silva, a councilor in the office of the mayor of San Salvador, said, “The arrest of Mario shows how weak the government is when it comes to enforcing the Bitcoin Law, but it also confirms something much worse.” They will use any means, including influencing institutions, to silence dissenting opinions.

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