Without a warrant, El Salvador police arrested and released a Bitcoin detractor.

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The National Civil Police later issued a statement stating that Mario Gómez’s detention was related to a financial fraud investigation.

According to an El Salvadorian news outlet, local authorities detained a computer and cryptocurrency specialist who was critical of the country’s acceptance of Bitcoin as legal tender for hours before releasing him.

According to multiple interviews conducted Wednesday by La Prensa Gráfica, the San Salvador police arrested computer specialist Mario Gómez today without a warrant, seizing his phone and attempting to take possession of a computer from his mother, Elena de Gomez. The National Civil Police, or PNC, released a statement saying Gómez’s detainment was related to an investigation for financial fraud before his lawyer, Otto Flores, said authorities released Gómez later that afternoon.

“[Mario] participates a lot in forums, in events, on social networks and is critical of the government,” said his mother. “If we see that the country is going backwards, it is necessary to speak, because it is a human right to express our opinions.”

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Gómez has been vocal on social media about his opposition to El Salvador’s legislation making Bitcoin (BTC) legal tender in the country, which is slated to take effect on September 7. His Twitter posts include claims that the folks behind the government’s Chivo BTC wallet are linked to the Bitcoin address from the huge Twitter breach in July 2020, as well as making “no to Bitcoin” stickers available to his 9,840 followers.

Since the nation’s Legislative Assembly passed a law asking that Bitcoin be accepted as legal cash alongside the US dollar, there have been at least two big rallies in San Salvador. President Nayib Bukele expressed his intention to pursue such legislation at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in June, but later clarified that Salvadorans would have the option not to utilise the cryptocurrency.

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Gómez’s admirers launched a Twitter campaign to “Free Mario” after learning of his incarceration. The PNC’s decision was described as “authoritarian policing methods in action” by Steve Hanke, an economist at Johns Hopkins University. Anabel Belloso, a member of the country’s legislative assembly, also suggested that officials were trying to “create charges” against Gómez.

“The arrest of Mario demonstrates the government’s frailty in terms of implementing the Bitcoin Law, but it also confirms something far more dangerous,” said Héctor Silva, a councillor to San Salvador’s mayor. “They are willing to exploit whatever institutions are required to keep critical voices at bay.”


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