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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Monday 12th of September 2022

’Voodoo Economics’ a Wizard of Oz moment
World Of Finance

’Voodoo Economics’’ a Wizard of Oz moment 

we have reached the point when the curtain was lifted in the Wizard of Oz and the Wizard revealed to be ‘’an ordinary conman from Omaha who has been using elaborate magic tricks and props to make himself seem “great and powerful”’’ 

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Jesse , a loner , been with a fight with one of the black rock males ! This guy has been a loner for a while ! @ushir_c

Jesse , a loner , been with a fight with one of the black rock males  ! This guy has been a loner for a while ! @ushir_c

“In the end we're all alone and no one's coming to save you.”

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Sheep spend their entire lives being afraid of the wolf, but end up eaten by the shepherd. Fabio Vighi

Sheep spend their entire lives being afraid of the wolf, but end up eaten by the shepherd. Fabio Vighi

The sacrifice of a sheep (1997) Kourush. Daghestan. RUSSIA Thomas Dworzak @fatalstrategies

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Wole Soyinka: ‘Where is the last rational place in the world?’ @thecontinent_

Wole Soyinka: ‘Where is the last rational place in the world?’  @thecontinent_

He is especially critical of the nexus between religion and politics, which is at the heart of his latest novel. 

“You used to hear of a military industrial complex, now you have a secular religious complex which is spelling the doom of Nigerians and African societies,” he said.

Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth is centred on a secret society that sources and sells body parts, mainly for human sacrifice. 

The novel begins with the staged journey of religious guru Papa Davina, who has a penchant for displays of “miracles”, recognising spirituality as the quickest way to achieve power and control. 

Working with one of the main political leaders in the country, Sir Goodie, Papa Davina represents the new face of politics in Nigeria and across the world – one in which religion and politics are theatrically intertwined.

It is a satirical novel – suspiciously pointing to Nigeria as the “happiest nation on Earth”. 

As Papa Davina puts it: “If the world produces dung, the dung must pile up somewhere. So, if our nation is indeed the dung heap of the world, it means we are performing a service to humanity. Now that is ... perspective.”

Literature provides an essential form of critique on current cultural and political institutions. This is a position that Soyinka as a writer has intentionally occupied, leading to stints in jail under dictatorships as well as exile.

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Cum mortuis non nisi larvas luctari: Only losers* wage wars against the dead. @nntaleb

Cum mortuis non nisi larvas luctari: Only losers* wage wars against the dead. @nntaleb

Listen, someone died. Have some decency.
If you have a problem w/the British monarchy, Empire, or Navy, you were under moral obligation to express it earlier & in a more effective way.

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So much going in this photo (h/t @REWearmouth) @PippaCrerar

So much going in this photo (h/t @REWearmouth) @PippaCrerar

Two Schools of thought 

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Everyone misunderstood what was happening in Izium: RF stepped back to entice thousands of Ukros into the space which RF would later bomb. @Roberta9996
Law & Politics

RF strategy is brilliant. The world as well as the Ukros were fooled. Ukros led by US planning are the fools. US doesn't know how to fight.

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ

Euro 1.008515
Dollar Index 108.64
Japan Yen 142.5165
Swiss Franc 0.9585400
Pound 1.16185
Aussie 0.684595
India Rupee 79.60760
South Korea Won 1377.79
Brazil Real 5.1478
Egypt Pound 19.303821
South Africa Rand 17.275665

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LHSummers Says Dollar Can Go Further, With ‘Huge Advantage’ for US @markets
World Of Finance

LHSummers  Says Dollar Can Go Further, With ‘Huge Advantage’ for US @markets 

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said that the dollar has further scope for appreciation given an array of fundamentals behind it, and expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of any Japanese intervention to turn the tide for the yen.
“It’s remarkable that people were saying the dollar’s day was past not very long ago given its current strength,” Summers told Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin. 

“My guess is that there’s room for this to continue.”
Summers highlighted that the US has a “huge advantage” in not being dependent on “egregiously expensive foreign energy.” 

Washington also mounted a stronger macroeconomic response to the pandemic, and the Federal Reserve is now moving faster to tighten monetary policy than its peers, he also noted.

“All of those various factors are making us a safe haven, a mecca for capital -- and that’s causing resources to flow into the dollar,” said Summers, a Harvard University professor and paid contributor to Bloomberg Television.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index is up about 11% since the start of the year, and hit a record high this week. 

On Tuesday, the dollar hit the highest since 2002 against the euro, at 0.9864, while on Wednesday it reached the strongest since 1998 versus Japan’s currency, at 144.99 yen.

The euro remains above its lows from more than two decades ago, when it slid below 83 US cents. 

“In some ways the relative fundamentals of the United States compared to Europe are even stronger now than they were then,” Summers said. 
Japan’s currency has depreciated even more rapidly than the euro, leaving it down more than 19% against the dollar so far this year. 

That’s spurred escalating warnings from Japanese officials, with Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda holding a meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday as the latest sign of concern.
Japanese officials haven’t ruled out any options, amid discussion among market participants about the chances of intervention to buy yen and sell dollars. Japan hasn’t done that since 1998, when it teamed up with the US -- at a time when Summers was serving as deputy Treasury secretary -- to help arrest a yen slump.
“I tend to be skeptical that intervention can have sustained impacts,” Summers said. 

“The capital markets are just so big, even relative to the resources that the authorities have, that I would be surprised in today’s world that interventions could have large, sustained impacts on maintaining the value of the yen.”
For its part, the US Treasury on Wednesday stuck by its reluctance to support any potential intervention into currency markets to halt the yen’s depreciation.
Summers highlighted that the more fundamental issue for the yen is Japan’s interest-rate settings -- both short and longer-term. The BOJ has kept its negative short-term policy rate, along with a 0.25% cap on 10-year yields.
Raising those rates “is not a simple proposition, given the magnitude of debts in Japan,” Summers said. 

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World Currencies



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Commodity Markets at a Glance WSJ

Commodity Markets at a Glance WSJ

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"This summer Russia was able to export energy resources at a price sixty percent higher than last year, this more than compensated for the decline in exports. This situation is unacceptable for us, our allies and the people of Ukraine,"
Minerals, Oil & Energy

The US Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale Adeyemo 
"This summer, Russia was able to export energy resources at a price 60% higher than last year, this more than compensated for the decline in exports. This situation is unacceptable for us, our allies and the people of Ukraine,"

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April 10, 2022 Apocalypse Now “You know, we can play chess, too,” Singh said. “It was important for us to show that the fortress could come crumbling down.”
Minerals, Oil & Energy

April 10, 2022 Apocalypse Now “You know, we can play chess, too,” Singh said. “It was important for us to show that the fortress could come crumbling down.”

The Sanction warfare program is a reiteration of the @BarackObama 2014 version but then Oil was dropped to $20.00 and today its trading at $97.56 a barrel. This is the first flaw in the sanction warfare effort.
‘’You can print money, but not oil to heat or wheat to eat’’ wrote @CreditSuisse’s Zoltan Pozsar.
Russia essentially gave the $ and the Euro the very same exorbitant privilege that King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia gave President Franklin D Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in Great Bitter Lake in February 14, 1945 when the petro dollar economy was symbolically born.

By insisting payments are made in Russian Rubles for Russian commodities Vladimir Putin has withdrawn that exorbitant privilege.
The Russian Ruble rally is real and has much further to go.

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Jul 3 By sanctioning the Russians, we created a reverse '' Petro Dollar'' We created a ''Petro Ruble'' a currency backed by commodities.
World Currencies

Jul 3 By sanctioning the Russians, we created a reverse '' Petro Dollar'' We created a ''Petro Ruble'' a currency backed by commodities. 

It is a straightforward calculation now between a Money Printer and a currency backed by hard and soft commodities. Its a No Brainer and a seismic macro development. 

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The United States, together with the G7 countries and the European Union, will impose a ban on the sea transportation of Russian oil on December 5, a ban on the transportation of petroleum products by sea on February 5, 2023 @DagnyTaggart369
Minerals, Oil & Energy

The United States, together with the G7 countries and the European Union, will impose a ban on the sea transportation of Russian oil on December 5, a ban on the transportation of petroleum products by sea on February 5, 2023 @DagnyTaggart369

The United States, together with the G7 countries and the European Union, will impose a ban on the sea transportation of Russian oil on December 5, a ban on the transportation of petroleum products by sea on February 5, 2023, the US Treasury Department announced.

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Commodity inventories will take off like FX reserves after the 1997 crisis, and will involve not just food and energy but also some industrial commodities. War and Industrial Policy @CreditSuisse Zoltan Pozsar

commodity inventories will take off like FX reserves after the 1997 crisis, and will involve not just food and energy but also some industrial commodities. War and Industrial Policy @CreditSuisse Zoltan Pozsar 

Regarding re-stocking, news of the EU’s natural gas and electricity shortages need no belaboring: the EU needs to re-stock to keep industry alive and to heat. 

The U.S. will also have to re-stock: the SPR will be “empty” by November. 

India has instructed all its industrial states to build inventories of coal sufficient to cover residential and industrial needs for the next three years (see here). 

Europe and China are suffering historic droughts at the moment, and this year’s wheat harvest in Ukraine is missing. Food and energy shortages are looming...
...and commodity inventories will take off like FX reserves after the 1997 crisis, and will involve not just food and energy but also some industrial commodities.

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Jul 3 The Tail will no longer wag the Dog and the Dog will simply run amok.

Jul 3 The Tail will no longer wag the Dog and the Dog will simply run amok.

Western markets are turbo finiancialized and for an eternity, Western banks and Central Banks have been able to distort the commodity price complex with little difficulty. 
Take the Gold market for example where derivatives are 100x the underlying. 
One can create inorganic cascade like price moves in the derivatives market and thereby control the physical commodity. 
There are plenty of examples of these inorganic price moves. In essence, the Tail wags the dog. 
The challenge is where the Supply/Demand balance is precarious and a small adjustment [reduce Supply or increase Demand] tips the situation into disequilibrium. 

The Tail will no longer wag the Dog and the Dog will simply run amok.

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A List Of 33 Things We Know About The Coming Food Shortages @zerohedge
Food, Climate & Agriculture

A List Of 33 Things We Know About The Coming Food Shortages @zerohedge 

Things are far worse than you are being told.  Over the past few months, I have been carefully documenting facts that show that global food production is going to be way down in 2022.  

Unfortunately, most people out there don’t seem to understand that the food that isn’t being grown in 2022 won’t be on our store shelves in 2023.  

We are potentially facing an absolutely unprecedented worldwide food crisis next year, but the vast majority of the population doesn’t seem very alarmed about this.  

So I would encourage you to help me get this warning out by sharing this list with as many people as you possibly can.  

As you will see below, we now have so many data points that it is impossible to deny what is coming. 

#1 The hard red winter wheat crop in the United States this year “was the smallest since 1963”.  

But in 1963, there were only 182 million people living in this nation.  Today, our population has grown to 329 million.

#2 It is being projected that the rice harvest in California will be “half what it would be in a normal year”.
#3 The U.S. tomato harvest will come in at just 10.5 million tons in 2022.  That is over a million tons lower than a normal year.
#4 This will be the worst U.S. corn harvest in at least a decade.
#10 Almost three-fourths of all U.S. farmers say that this year’s drought is hurting their harvests.
#11 Thanks to the endless drought, the total number of cattle in Oregon is down 41 percent.
#12 Thanks to the endless drought, the total number of cattle in New Mexico is down 43 percent.

#13 Thanks to the endless drought, the total number of cattle in Texas is down 50 percent.
#14 One beef producer in Oklahoma is now predicting that ground beef “could eventually top $50 per pound”.

#15 At least 40 percent of the United States has been suffering from drought conditions for 101  consecutive weeks.
#16 Overall, this is the worst multi-year megadrought in the United States in 1,200 years.
#17 Europe is currently experiencing the worst drought that it has seen in 500 years.  In some parts of central Europe, river levels have fallen so low that “hunger stones” are being revealed for the first time in centuries.
#18 Corn production for the entire EU could be down by as much as one-fifth in 2022.
#19 We are being warned that there will be crop losses in France of up to 35 percent.
#20 It is being projected that crop losses in some areas of the UK could be as high as 50 percent.
#21 It is being reported that there will be crop losses “of up to 50 percent” in some parts of Germany.

#22 Some farmers in Italy have already lost “up to 80% of their harvest”.
#23 Agricultural production in Somalia will be down about 80 percent this year.
#24 In eastern Africa, the endless drought has already resulted in the deaths of at least seven million animals.
#25 In China, they are facing the worst drought that they have ever experienced in recorded history.
#26 India normally accounts for 40 percent of the global rice trade, but we are being warned that production in that country will be way down in 2022 due to “considerable rainfall deficits in key rice producing states”.
#27 A third of the entire nation of Pakistan was under water after recent floods absolutely devastated that nation, and agricultural areas were hit particularly hard.  As a result, the vast majority of the crops in the country have been “washed away”…
It has also been estimated that roughly 65 per cent of the country’s food basket — particularly crops like rice, cotton, wheat and onion — have been washed away.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in an interview to CGTN earlier this week, offered an even starker outlook by saying that “about 80 to 90 per cent” of the country’s crops have been damaged by the floods.
#28 The prices of some fertilizers have tripled since 2021, while the prices of some other fertilizers have actually quadrupled.
#29 One payment company is reporting that the number of Americans using their app to take out short-term loans for groceries has risen by 95 percent.
#30 Demand at U.S. food banks is now even worse than it was during the height of the COVID pandemic.
#31 The World Health Organization is telling us that millions of people in Africa are now potentially facing a very real possibility of starving to death.
#32 According to the World Food Program, 828 million people around the world go to bed hungry each night.  Needless to say, that number will soon be much higher.
#33 UN Secretary General António Guterres has publicly stated that he believes that it is likely that there will be “multiple famines” in 2023.
As global food supplies get tighter and tighter, so will the risk of civil unrest.
In fact, this has already been happening…
The risk of civil unrest has surged this year in more than half of the world’s countries, signaling a coming period of heightened global instability fueled by inflation, war, and shortages of essentials, a new analysis says.
According to Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based risk consulting and intelligence firm, 101 of the 198 countries tracked on its Civil Unrest Index saw an increase in their risk of civil unrest between the second and third quarters of this year.
In recent weeks, we have seen absolutely massive protests in cities all over the planet.
But conditions aren’t even that bad yet.
So what will things be like in 2023 when it finally becomes exceedingly clear that there simply will not be enough food for everyone?
Wealthy countries will have the resources to buy up much of what is available on the market, and that means that many poor countries will deeply suffer.
If everything that you have read in this article sounds familiar, that is because we have been warned for years that such conditions were coming.
In 2023, there will be famines and civil unrest all over the globe.
This is not a drill.  An extremely serious global food crisis has already begun, and I would encourage you to get prepared for what is ahead while you still can.

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Sunday, April 10, 2022 Apocalypse Now
World Of Finance

Sunday, April 10, 2022 Apocalypse Now

“But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola They must have guessed, once or twice -guessed and refused to believe -that everything, always, collectively, had been moving toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no surprise, no second chance, no return.’’
Gravity’s Rainbow is a 1973 novel by Thomas Pynchon

The consequences for global stability are now unfathomable.

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Sri Lanka Investors Eye China, Zambia for Restructuring Clues Caixin Global H/T @chinahand
Emerging Markets

(Bloomberg) — Holders of defaulted Sri Lankan bonds are keeping one eye on the South Asian nation’s biggest creditors and the other on an African debt deal for clues as to how the restructuring might play out.
A preliminary $2.9 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund announced last week wasn’t enough to spark a rebound in the notes. 

They’ve been in free-fall since the onset of the pandemic in 2020 and went into default earlier this year amid the worst economic crisis in the country’s history.
Now, investor attention turns to China, India and Japan — Sri Lanka’s biggest bilateral creditors. 

Bondholders want to see how much debt relief those governments, which have key strategic and geopolitical interests over and above their investments, grant the island.
“With private creditors, what the IMF needs is good faith negotiations over reprofiling debt. That is sufficient,” said Petar Atanasov, director, co-head of sovereign research & strategy at Gramercy Funds Management LLC. 

“But for official creditors, the bar is higher, they need specific and explicit guarantees on terms which the IMF considers necessary.”
In the past, China has been slow to provide those guarantees, due to its concerns about being underrepresented at the IMF, Atanasov said. 

“So finding common ground on sovereign debt restructurings where China is a major creditor tends to take time,” he said.
For Sri Lankan noteholders, restructuring talks in Zambia may offer some pointers.
The African nation, which became the continent’s first pandemic-era sovereign defaulter, needs relief on payments worth $8.4 billion through 2025, estimated at about 90% of its scheduled external debt servicing over the period. 

China reluctantly co-chaired the committee of official creditors for Zambia, and nine months after a preliminary deal was reached, the IMF approved a $1.3 billion loan for the country.
Sri Lanka’s 2030 dollar bonds halved in value in the months after March 2020 as the pandemic set in. 

They hit a record low of 24 cents on the dollar this July as fuel shortages ground the economy to a halt, and now trade around 31 cents on the dollar.
The number of countries whose dollar bonds trade at distressed levels has more than doubled to 19 this year, with tighter global monetary conditions and Russia’s war in Ukraine leading many to predict a wave of sovereign defaults

Bonds from Argentina, Ecuador and El Salvador — which are current on their debt obligations — trade near the 30-cent mark.
While the historical average for sovereign restructurings is 52 cents on the dollar, the collapse in the nation’s foreign-currency reserves puts it in a worse position than most, according to Carlos de Sousa, a portfolio manager at Vontobel Asset Management AG in Zurich. 

JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategists including Milo Gunasinghe say recovery values for the long bonds will hover around 35 cents on the dollar.
In order for the IMF to release the financial support, the Sri Lankan government must also win concessions from its private investors. 

Officials are working with financial and legal advisers on a debt restructuring strategy and intend to make a presentation to the creditors in the coming weeks.
Rothschild & Co., financial advisors to the creditor group declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg. White & Case, the creditors’ legal advisors, as well as Clifford Chance, and Lazard — legal and financial advisors to the Sri Lankan government, respectively — didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Investors are hoping that with the IMF’s assistance a quick restructuring can happen,” said Philip Fielding, co-head for emerging market debt at Mackay Shields UK LLP, which owns Sri Lanka bonds. 

“But the timeline is dependent how quickly bilateral creditors including China and India agree to a debt deal.”

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Letter from El Salvador The Rise of @nayibbukele El Salvador’s Authoritarian President @NewYorker @JonathanBlitzer
Frontier Markets

Letter from El Salvador The Rise of @nayibbukele   El Salvador’s Authoritarian President @NewYorker @JonathanBlitzer

El Penalito, the little jail, is a squat concrete structure on a busy commercial street in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. 

On the morning of April 7th, a Thursday, fifty women were lined up along its front wall, wearing surgical masks and holding umbrellas against the sun. 

They’d been gathering there all week. It was nine-thirty, and about ninety degrees. 

Most of the women had been waiting since eight to reach a small window where a police official shared information on the whereabouts of their sons and husbands.

Toward the back of the line, wearing a long denim skirt and a red T-shirt, was a middle-aged woman with dark, lined skin and deep-set eyes. 

Her name was Yanira, and her son, she said, was a twenty-year-old with autism. 

He’d been arrested three days earlier, at home, where the two had been working throughout the pandemic, cleaning and reselling discarded plastic sleeves that hold bottles of hand sanitizer. 

Yanira rarely leaves him alone, but she had to run an errand. When she returned, thirty minutes later, the police had taken him away. 

“Sometimes he’ll wander into the street without his shoes,” she told me. “All the neighbors know him. But someone who doesn’t might think he’s a criminal, or crazy.”

A week before, members of El Salvador’s largest gang, MS-13, had murdered eighty-seven people in three days. 

The country has long been ravaged by gang violence, but these killings were unusual in their ruthlessness. 

People with no ties to crime were targeted: a fruit seller, a surf instructor, a homemaker, a cobbler. 

The gangsters went after everybody, but their message was directed at one person—the country’s President, Nayib Bukele, who has promised to radically reduce crime and to change El Salvador’s image abroad. 

Gang members left a corpse on the road leading to Surf City, a stretch of beachfront real estate on the Pacific Coast which Bukele had refurbished and renamed to attract international tourists.

In recent decades, every Salvadoran President has contended with the gangs. 

One administration sent soldiers to poor neighborhoods and filled the country’s prisons, under a policy it called mano dura, or “strong hand”; another reprised it as super mano dura. 

When Bukele was the mayor of San Salvador, he called these responses “immoral” and “impractical.” But now he declared war. 

Just after midnight on the second day of the homicide spike, the National Assembly, which Bukele’s party controls, instituted a “state of exception,” under which authorities could arrest anyone they considered suspicious. 

Detainees were not entitled to a legal defense. The right to gather in groups larger than two was suspended, and all minors would be tried as adults. 

On his Twitter account, Bukele, who is forty-one years old and has an approval rating of more than eighty per cent, 

shared a running tally of the arrests that followed, along with scabrous commentary, posting photographs of tattooed men in handcuffs and underwear (“little angels”), some of whom appeared to have been roughed up (“He must have been eating fries with ketchup”). 

Critics of the new policy—whether common citizens, journalists, or foreign governments—supported “the terrorists,” he wrote.

Yanira’s son was one of six thousand people arrested in the first week. By the time I met her, the total had risen to about nine thousand. A month and a half later, it would reach thirty thousand

Bukele conceded that one per cent of the roundups might result in wrongful arrests, but the public could only take his word for that figure.

 “As we continue arresting more gangsters, more people are going to protest,” Bukele said. 

“Because there will always be a mother of a gangster, a family member, or a friend who isn’t going to like that we are cleansing that cancer.”

Yanira was joined in the line by her daughter, who’d been missing work at a clothing shop to help locate her brother. 

The previous day, the daughter told me, they’d spent six hours visiting courthouses, searching for him.

 “We’re not the kind of people who have any experience in these sorts of places,” she said. She crossed the street while Yanira held their place in line. 

A bodega in front of El Penalito offers food and hygiene packages for detainees, ranging from a single meal ($2.50) to basic toiletries ($7.00) or a change of underwear ($15.50). 

(Prisoners without this assistance eat only intermittently.) 

Yanira’s daughter returned just in time to press a receipt for three meals into her mother’s hand before they reached the window. 

Farther down the block, a group of soldiers armed with rifles had stopped a public bus and were ordering the male passengers to step out and lift up their shirts. 

They were checking for tattoos that might indicate gang membership.

As the official at the window examined her son’s records, Yanira stood ramrod straight. 

Suddenly, she recoiled; when she turned away from the window, her eyes were wide. “Izalco” was all she could say, and she staggered off, sobbing. 

It was the name of a maximum-security prison that houses hardened gangsters. Her son had been sent there earlier that morning.

While the women waited outside El Penalito, another crowd was gathering, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. 

It consisted of investors and tech entrepreneurs, who were there to see Bukele, a keynote speaker at an annual Bitcoin conference. 

Last summer, he announced that El Salvador would be the first country in the world to accept bitcoin as legal tender. 

Within a few months, there were some two hundred special A.T.M.s set up across the country, and the government had launched an app, called the Chivo Wallet, on which each Salvadoran was given thirty dollars’ worth of bitcoin. 

At the conference, Bitcoiners, techno-utopians, and libertarians assembled to hear about a series of ambitious projects that Bukele had been promising ever since. 

They would have to wait a little longer. The conference, Bukele wrote in an apologetic note, was “one of the biggest celebrations of the power of freedom, decentralization, and human ingenuity in its fight against ignorance, centralization, and dogma.”

 But, owing to the state of exception, he needed to stay put. “Everything happens for a reason,” he went on. “Hopefully we’ll be able to learn soon why this had to happen this way.”

When Bukele was elected President, in 2019, he was the youngest head of state in Latin America and embodied a new national beginning. 

At his inauguration, his heavily pregnant wife stood beside him as he instructed crowds of ecstatic voters to raise a hand along with him after he swore the oath of office. 

Three of his recent predecessors had been either arrested or indicted, and all of them came from El Salvador’s two main political parties, which had governed without interruption for more than two decades. 

It had been a period of chronic poverty, violence, and mass emigration. 

“If you left to live in the United States and returned twenty years later, you’d find the same politicians,” Amparo Marroquín, a professor at the Central American University, in San Salvador, told me. “They were dinosaurs.” 

Bukele, who’d defected from one of the main parties, pitched himself as an anti-corruption reformer. 

His campaign slogan—“There’s enough money to go around as long as no one steals”—is a line that he has used for almost as long as he’s been in public life. 

He began his career at the age of thirty, as the mayor of a town of fewer than ten thousand people. 

After a single term, he ran for mayor of San Salvador. Fresh off that job, at thirty-seven, he was elected President.

Bukele, who wears leather jackets and backward baseball caps and has a beard, invokes Alexander the Great and Steve Jobs, and his brand is meant to be a bit of both: a potentate with an anti-establishment streak. 

At the United Nations General Assembly in 2019, he took a selfie from the dais, mid-address, reminding the world leaders in attendance that a “couple of images on Instagram can have a greater impact than any speech in this assembly.” 

Social media, he once said, “has shown us what people really are.” Before, “everybody was pretending.”

During the years of his ascent, the public heard from him constantly—on Twitter and Facebook, and in a continual procession of ribbon cuttings and other public appearances. 

As the mayor of San Salvador, he cleaned up parts of the city’s ramshackle downtown; renovated a trio of historic plazas; opened a high-end market, which has escalators and rooftop restaurants, 

in addition to a library equipped with computers and play areas for children. 

At one point, he unveiled a twenty-four-million-dollar public-works project, called 100% Iluminado, to install lamps on every street corner.

 “You can call it PR if you want to be a little cynical. But I’m talking about inspiration,” he told the Virginia Quarterly Review, in 2016. “I’m talking about something sublime.”

Usually, public adoration dims as the realities of governing set in, but Bukele’s support has grown. He is now the most popular leader in Latin America.

In part, this is the result of his war on the gangs, his handling of the pandemic, public-infrastructure projects, an increase in the minimum wage, and low gas prices. 

It is also the product of a mammoth propaganda campaign. 

But, more profoundly, Bukele has succeeded in generating a palpable sense of collective expectancy and pride: the country is finally getting its act together.

The United States, the European Union, and the Organization of American States have criticized Bukele’s most audacious acts as President. 

These include threatening members of Congress with troops, and firing Supreme Court magistrates and replacing them with judges who have allowed Bukele to run for a second term despite a constitutional ban. 

But the foreign criticism has enabled Bukele to unify Salvadorans against a common enemy, and has put him, and his country of six and a half million people, on the map. 

“Why are they so concerned about a country so small?” he has said. 

In 2021, Time included Bukele in its list of the world’s most influential people, alongside Narendra Modi, Donald Trump, and Naftali Bennett. 

“Ok boomers,” he recently tweeted, in English, at members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

“You have 0 jurisdiction on a sovereign and independent nation. We are not your colony.”

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Letter from El Salvador The Rise of @nayibbukele El Salvador’s Authoritarian President @NewYorker @JonathanBlitzer [continued]
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Letter from El Salvador The Rise of @nayibbukele   El Salvador’s Authoritarian President @NewYorker @JonathanBlitzer [continued]

For much of his career, Bukele has basked in the limelight of the press: visits to Washington, to address the Americas Society and the Heritage Foundation, interviews with Jorge Ramos and Ben Smith. 

When the coverage turned critical, however, he stopped engaging with international journalists. I was no exception. 

As one of his advisers put it, “Why talk to you when he can speak directly to the people?”

Bukele may represent the future, but he talks a lot about the past—the politicians who robbed public coffers, the gangs that sowed terror, the institutions that never worked. 

“It’s a kind of revanchism,” Juan Antonio Durán, a judge, told me.

 He was demoted last year, after criticizing the President for forcing a third of the federal judiciary into early retirement. 

By then, at least fifty government officials and high-profile critics had had to leave the country, according to Revista Factum, a Salvadoran news magazine. 

Bukele, after many accusations that he was concentrating power, changed his Twitter bio to “the coolest dictator in the world.”

 A member of his party identified himself on social media as “Minister of Trolls.” 

Bukele’s voters expected him to have enemies, a member of Congress told me. “What the President is selling the people is revenge.”

All through the nineteen-eighties, El Salvador was a place of obsessive U.S. interest. Ronald Reagan said that it was “on the front line of the battle that is really aimed at the very heart of the Western Hemisphere, and eventually at us.” 

When fighting broke out between the country’s right-wing government and leftist guerrillas, the U.S. sided with the government; it armed the military, trained and advised its officer corps, and covered up their worst abuses. 

For twelve years, the guerrillas fought the U.S.-backed government to a stalemate, and some seventy-five thousand civilians died. 

Eighty-five per cent of the killings were committed by the military and the security forces, which massacred large numbers of the rural poor for sympathizing with the guerrillas. 

Bukele was ten when peace accords were signed, in 1992. Nearly a quarter of the Salvadoran population ended up moving to the United States.

Bukele grew up in San Salvador, as a privileged outsider. His father was a Muslim businessman of Palestinian descent, who opened the country’s first McDonald’s franchise, ran a textile company, helped build four mosques, and owned a public-relations firm. 

He was also a polygamist with six wives. Bukele, who has three brothers and seven half siblings, went to a bilingual private school. 

Most of his well-heeled classmates shared their families’ conservative outlooks. 

But Bukele’s father was a man of the left and a supporter of the guerrilla forces, called the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, or the F.M.L.N., which became one of the two major political parties after the war. 

Muslim leftists stood out in Salvadoran high society. 

In the late nineties, after Al Qaeda gained international notoriety, the Bukele family was stopped by customs agents at the airport because of their suspicious-sounding name, according to a deep investigative profile by the journalist Gabriel Labrador. 

If the incident rattled Bukele, he refused to let on. Popular enough to be elected president of his high-school class, he captioned his yearbook photograph “Class terrorist.”

Bukele’s political apprenticeship began after he dropped out of college and was managing a night club in downtown San Salvador

He took over his family’s public-relations firm, whose key client was the F.M.L.N. 

The Presidency and the Assembly were controlled by the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, or arena, which was founded, in the early eighties, by a member of a right-wing death squad. 

The Party catered primarily to the business élite, but its members included ex-military men and religious conservatives. 

An accumulation of corruption scandals sank arena, in 2009, allowing the F.M.L.N. to gain power, which it held on to for the next decade

In 2011, Bukele launched a self-funded bid for mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlán, an old arena stronghold outside the capital.

 “Don’t get involved in politics,” his father had once warned him, according to an interview recovered by the investigative newspaper El Faro. “Politicians who lose are . . . thrown away. You’ll be damaged goods.”

But Bukele already had a plan: he would run on the F.M.L.N. ticket while downplaying his associations with the Party. “I did not live the war,” he said in a television interview during the campaign. 

“I’m of the postwar generation, a generation that has new ideas.” 

His politics were leftist—progressive taxes, increased public spending—but he avoided the F.M.L.N.’s hoary pronouncements about revolution. 

He also rejected the Party’s trademark colors of red and white, instead blanketing the streets with campaign materials that featured his name in white against a backdrop of light blue. 

“I have friends who are conservative, and they’d never vote for the F.M.L.N.,” he told one of his advisers.

Bukele won by less than two per cent, and governed as if he were still campaigning. 

He erected a large stone sign with a white “N” engraved in a circle at the entrance to Nuevo Cuscatlán. 

He also opened a twenty-four-hour medical clinic, a library, and a community center. 

Each month, seniors received a free basket of food. Bukele vowed to donate his entire salary to a new program funding grants for students to take classes in English and computer science. 

The town’s debt ballooned, but his popularity soon eclipsed that of the Party elders.

The F.M.L.N. encouraged him to run for mayor of San Salvador, a job widely seen as a stepping stone to the Presidency. 

“The leader of the Party told everyone that Nayib’s candidacy would get us two or three more seats in Congress,” a former Party official told me. “They all thought that it would help them.”

Bukele, who felt his power growing, shut the Party out of his campaign, relying instead on family members and old friends. 

One of them was Ernesto Castro, his chief secretary in Nuevo Cuscatlán, who now serves as the president of the National Assembly. 

Another was his younger brother Karim. In public, Nayib was polished and poised, but in private meetings he tended to be distracted and jittery. 

He checked his phone constantly, drank four Red Bulls a day, kept odd hours, and struggled to focus on individual tasks. 

A former associate told me, “If an idea occurs to him, and he thinks it’s brilliant, he does it. Then, afterward, if it’s illegal? Oops!” 

Karim would sit quietly before making calm, authoritative pronouncements. “It wasn’t a meeting unless Karim was there,” the former Party official said. 

Together, the brothers reprised the high points of the Nuevo Cuscatlán campaign—the same colors, the same insignia (“N”), and the same slogan (“New Ideas”). 

§By the time Bukele won, he had developed a recognizable brand and had more Twitter followers than the country’s President did.

When journalists dug into Bukele’s accomplishments in office—the market downtown, the revitalization of San Salvador’s historic commercial district—they found evidence of irregularities. 

The mayor’s office had disregarded permits and zoning ordinances. It paid inflated prices to contractors, and kept information from the city council. 

One businessman who worked with Bukele at the time told me, 

“Before Bukele, you’d want to get something done, and when you’d go in to meet with the mayor you’d find a long table full of council members, lots of bureaucracy. 

With Bukele, you’d sit down at the same long table, but it would just be him with an assistant. On the one hand, it was great because it was just one guy. On the other, you’d leave thinking, Uh-oh, it’s just one guy.”

Bukele came to regard any investigation into his leadership as a personal attack. 

Edwin Segura, a pollster and a political columnist, told me, “Anytime the media put out something questioning his accomplishments, it was because they were against him.” 

Bukele started building an alternative media landscape: TV programs, a network of trolls on Twitter, an army of YouTubers, and several publications that posted pro-Bukele stories on Facebook.

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Letter from El Salvador The Rise of @nayibbukele   El Salvador’s Authoritarian President @NewYorker @JonathanBlitzer [continued]

Bukele’s portrayal of himself as a contrarian truth-teller was effective, but it was a falling out with the F.M.L.N. that turned him into a political juggernaut. 

In the fall of 2017, an argument broke out in a San Salvador city-council meeting over the issuance of a building permit for a revitalization project. 

According to reporting by Labrador, Bukele accused the council’s legal director, a lawyer with the F.M.L.N., of conspiring against him. 

At one point, she claimed, he threw an apple at her and said, “Take this apple, you witch!”

The incident led to a formal vote expelling Bukele from the Party, but the F.M.L.N. was divided. 

“The leaders were also scared that Bukele might resign,” the official told me. “He was so popular. He had this huge reach on social media. The breaking point was when he wanted to be President. They used the apple to cover it up.”

Shortly afterward, Bukele, at a gathering in the U.S. with Salvadoran immigrants, said, “arena and the F.M.L.N. are really the same.” 

He announced the formation of a new party, Nuevas Ideas. In February, 2019, he was elected President with fifty-three per cent of the vote

The arm—bare and handcuffed at the wrist, the hand in a fist—came into view on a two-lane road leading from the capital to San Vicente. 

It was jutting out from the back of a police pickup truck that was driving past a store called Tulita’s Classic Sweets. 

A man was lying in the bed of the truck, but all that was visible was his arm, chained to a rack attached to the cab.

One of the strangest aspects of the state of exception was how infrequent sightings like this were, unless you went looking for them. 

The government was broadcasting its harshest acts, and on Twitter there was a flood of photographs, videos, and menacing announcements. 

But on the main streets of the country’s biggest cities nothing seemed out of the ordinary. 

“The state of exception is directed at the poor, marginalized areas,” Rina Montti, the director of investigations at Cristosal, a human-rights group, told me.

 “These are stigmatized communities with people who are seen as having dudosa confiabilidad ”—“questionable trustworthiness.” 

She continued, “You hear people say, ‘Surely they must have done something if they’re being taken away.’ ”

On a Saturday night, an old Salvadoran friend of mine proposed that we shoot pool at a billiard hall in San Salvador’s historic downtown. 

He is a father of three in his mid-forties who runs a small business in the capital. 

The last time I’d seen him—about six years earlier, at the start of Bukele’s mayoral term—he made trips downtown only during daylight hours, because it was too dangerous after dark. 

He was encouraged by the President’s actions during the state of exception, as is more than ninety per cent of the population, according to recent polls. 

“Nayib is fighting,” he said. “Of course he has his critics. He’s doing new things, radical things. It’s all on the up and up. People are always trying to be so down on El Salvador. But I don’t hear Salvadorans talking about leaving, like before.” 

At the pool hall, it was Eighties Night, and a d.j. played the Sugar Hill Gang and Run-DMC while people danced and ate tapas. 

We left after midnight. As we strolled through the illuminated downtown plazas, he snapped photos of the Art Nouveau National Theatre.

In the zonas marginalizadas, where the gangs had been in control, however, residents were effectively trapped between them and the government. 

I arrived in Distrito Italia, a community of ten thousand people about an hour north of San Salvador, on a Monday evening, to find a cordon of some twenty soldiers in combat fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles. 

They had set up a checkpoint for anyone entering or leaving the residential area. 

Soldiers searched bags and checked I.D. cards, and as people returned from work the line grew long. 

The commanding officer sought me out as soon as I arrived. 

“If you haven’t done anything wrong, you’ll be fine,” he said. “People outside El Salvador probably don’t understand.”

A few minutes later, I noticed a woman in a green striped shirt, with dark, frizzy hair, standing at a slight remove from the crowd. 

Her two sons—ages eighteen and twenty-one—were returning from work, and she was waiting to meet them, so that they could all walk home together. 

Mostly, she felt alivio—“relief”—she said: “There are soldiers inside patrolling.” 

When I asked her whether she worried that her sons might get arrested, she shrugged. 

“Until it happens to you, it doesn’t matter what happens to someone else,” Verónica Reyna, a security expert who works at a nonprofit called Servicio Social Pasionista, told me. 

“It’s a survival instinct. The more violence people live with, the less they can care about other people. Getting involved in other people’s lives is deadly.”

Gangs have dominated life in El Salvador since the late nineties, but they didn’t originate there. MS-13 and Barrio 18 both began in Los Angeles, at least a decade earlier, as hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans fled the civil war. 

Many of the teen-agers, adrift when they arrived, turned to crime in the inner city, where Mexican and Black gangs enforced a brutal racial hierarchy. 

After thousands of Salvadoran youths were arrested, the Clinton Administration saw an opportunity to demonstrate its toughness both on immigration and on crime. 

It deported violent offenders without telling the Salvadoran government who they were. 

“The United States lets these dangerous types out and tells them, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ ” the President of El Salvador said in 1997.

 “But we have no way to try them or jail them . . . and so we must not only let them in but let them go free.”

Cliques from Southern California arrived in El Salvador, bringing their rivalries and their turf wars with them

“They consumed everything in their path,” the anthropologist Juan José Martínez d’Aubuisson has written.

 “Piecemeal neighborhood gangs saw no choice but to join one of the two for their own survival. The alternative was complete annihilation.

 By 2015, there were some sixty thousand gang members in El Salvador, and seventy per cent of the country’s businesses were being extorted, leading to annual losses of four billion dollars, according to estimates by the Salvadoran Central Reserve Bank. 

The homicide rate was higher than it had been during much of the civil war.

A series of Salvadoran administrations launched dramatic crackdowns that played well with the public but failed to curb the violence. 

In 2012, David Munguía Payés, who had served as a general during the war and was now the Minister of Security in an F.M.L.N. government, decided that the gangs, like the guerrillas, couldn’t be beaten with force alone. 

He brought in a former guerrilla, a Catholic bishop, and a representative from the Organization of American States to negotiate with them. 

A deal was reached, and the homicide rate dropped for almost eighteen months, but revelations of the talks incited public outrage. 

The next President, who also came from the F.M.L.N., renounced the deal, and the government negotiators were eventually prosecuted for their involvement. 

In 2020, Munguía Payés was arrested for “unlawful association.” 

Other members of the F.M.L.N. and arena have faced jail time for making ad-hoc deals with the gangs, either to enforce higher turnout at election time or to periodically blunt the death count.

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Letter from El Salvador The Rise of @nayibbukele   El Salvador’s Authoritarian President @NewYorker @JonathanBlitzer [continued]

As the mayor of San Salvador, Bukele made an agreement with members of Barrio 18, who controlled the area around the Mercado Cuscatlán, according to El Faro

The government gave them space among the venders’ stalls, and, in return, the gang allowed the market to operate. 

Bukele has denied this, and as President he adopted visible measures to combat the gangs. 

He called his policy the Territorial Control Plan; it increased the police presence in some municipalities and declared a state of emergency inside the national prisons, which had the immediate effect of mixing rival populations that had long been kept apart. 

At the start of the pandemic, the authorities arranged hundreds of bare-chested prisoners in their underwear, pressed tightly together in rows, for a photo opportunity. 

One of the President’s advisers told me, “Look how he’s treating the gangs. How could he be talking to them?”

But Bukele started negotiating with MS-13 as soon as he became President, according to another story in El Faro

During his first year in office, he didn’t have a majority in the Assembly, and for his fledgling party to win seats he needed the homicide rate to fall. 

“The big drops in homicides were never just the work of the government,” Verónica Reyna told me. 

“Bukele learned the lesson from what happened before. He closed ranks. No one had access to the prisons for a year and a half.”

The El Faro story relied on hundreds of pages of prison documents, in addition to logbooks from facilities where secret meetings were held between gang leadership and government representatives. 

In an intercepted message, one leader of MS-13 told another, “Things are going step by step.” 

The government, he said, was increasing enforcement to keep up appearances, so that the negotiations could continue. 

“These measures are just a coverup,” he went on. “They’re looking out for the well-being of us homies.”

Less than a week after the story was published, Bukele announced that the government would investigate El Faro for money laundering. 

Since then, he has attacked the newspaper relentlessly, sometimes calling out journalists by name. 

A few of them have been forced into exile; many others have adopted the practice of leaving the country after publishing a story and waiting to return until the threats have died down. 

The newspaper has a large international following, but inside El Salvador Bukele’s campaign against it has succeeded. 

Many people have come to see El Faro as partisan and unreliable.

The night before I arrived in El Salvador, the National Assembly passed a sweeping law to block news outlets from reporting on the gang situation. 

Journalists could now face up to ten years in prison if they “reproduced” or “transmitted” information that might have come from gang sources or could otherwise “panic” the public. 

The law was ambiguous by design, César Fagoaga, then the president of the Association of Journalists of El Salvador, told me. “

This isn’t a legal problem—it’s a political problem,” he said. “They want to control the only thing they don’t have—journalism.” 

Claudia Ortiz, a first-term congresswoman from a fledgling party called Vamos, told me, 

“The real opposition right now that’s doing substantive things is outside the Assembly. It’s investigative journalism, the universities, social organizations exposing real problems.”

In the nine days that I spent in El Salvador in April, three more journalists had to leave the country after being falsely accused by the President and members of his party of conspiring with the gangs. 

One of them—a reporter named Bryan Avelar, who works with the New York Times—was the target of a viral campaign that claimed his brother was a prominent gangster. (He doesn’t have any brothers.) 

“They know that they can have us arrested if they feel like it,” Julia Gavarrete, a reporter with El Faro, told me. 

Last year, she was one of thirty-five journalists and human-rights advocates to discover that their cell phones had been infected with the surveillance software Pegasus.

The government could deny press reports, but certain facts remained. 

Last year, Bukele refused a U.S. request to extradite fourteen top-ranking members of MS-13. 

The Salvadoran government secretly released some of the men from prison, and they are now at large. 

According to a joint investigation by La Prensa Gráfica and InSight Crime, one of the gangsters, whose nom de guerre is Crook of Hollywood, walked out of the country’s most secure prison during a crime wave last November. 

The following month, homicides decreased.

Recently, the journalist Carlos Martínez published a story in El Faro based on seven audio recordings of conversations between members of MS-13 and a government negotiator close to Bukele.

 The code name they use for the President is Batman. There are explicit references to two years of secret talks, and the official takes pains to describe everything he’s done for the gang to prove his “loyalty and trustworthiness.” 

What caused the killing spree in March, according to three gang members cited in the story, was the arrest of a group of gangsters who were travelling in a government vehicle. They felt betrayed because they’d been promised “safe passage.”

Uncharacteristically, the government did not attack the article when it came out. 

In June, 2022, Patrick Ventrell, the American Chargé d’Affaires, gave a press conference in San Salvador at which he said, 

“The best way for the government of El Salvador to show that it is serious” about fighting the gangs “is to extradite the most dangerous leaders.” 

Later in the summer, Bukele extradited two of them with little fanfare. This news was eclipsed by the construction of a prison to hold more suspected gang members, which he was calling the Terrorism Confinement Center.

It’s taken as an article of faith that the public cares about such abstract principles as the rule of law and the health of public institutions. 

But voters also want to see their man win, because it means that they’re winning. 

Often, authoritarian tactics play better than high-minded poise does. 

On February 9, 2020, eight months into Bukele’s term, a crowd of a few thousand demonstrators gathered outside the National Assembly, which was not in session. 

They’d arrived in government vehicles and in buses driven by soldiers, and were there to protest the refusal by members of the Assembly to fund a key plank of Bukele’s security budget. 

Shortly after 4 p.m., a caravan of S.U.V.s pulled up, and Bukele emerged. Surrounded by bodyguards, he strode to a stage set up at the end of an alley leading to the chamber, and the crowd roared. “Wait here,” he told them, then headed inside. 

Armed soldiers in combat fatigues followed him.

While the troops fanned out across the gallery, Bukele called a symbolic session to order. 

“I think it’s clear who’s in control of the situation,” he said into a microphone. 

He put it down and bowed his head in prayer. After a few seconds, he rose and returned to the crowd outside.

 This time, when he approached the stage, half a dozen soldiers stood beside him, their rifles drawn.

“I asked God, and he told me, ‘Patience,’ ” Bukele said. He’s never made clear which religion he practices, yet he frequently invokes God, projecting a firm but flexible piety.

 (“It’s one of his key characteristics,” Marroquín, of the Central American University, told me. “He can seem Catholic or Protestant, Christian, or even Muslim.”) 

Bukele’s religious rhetoric generally sways the public, but this crowd was expecting something more dramatic. 

People started to groan. “Patience, patience,” he repeated. “These sinvergüenzas,” he continued, gesturing behind him in reference to the obstructionist congressmen. 

“We’ll get rid of them democratically. . . . In several months, we’re going to have the Assembly.”

In Central America, the symbolism was lost on nobody: a head of state had just breached another branch of the government with troops. 

“The whole thing got out of hand,” a former government official told me. But those people who thought Bukele would suffer consequences were mistaken. 

“The most significant thing wasn’t what happened but what didn’t,” Johnny Wright, a congressman with the party Nuestro Tiempo, told me. 

“That was the moment when he knew, he tested that he would not have resistance.”

Hours after the incursion, Bukele received a text message from his former attorney Bertha Deleón. “You’ve gone too far,” she wrote. 

When he didn’t reply, she decided to tweet. His response was swift. 

“Delete this,” he told her. “You’re attacking us.” Deleón refused, and the government launched a smear campaign against her. 

She was a trending topic on Twitter for days, accused of protecting the gangs and of abetting criminals. 

People shouted at her on the street. “I worked for the prosecutor’s office for years on organized crime,” she said.

 “Old colleagues came up to me saying, ‘Now we’re supposed to be investigating you. Fix this, or leave.’ ” 

Months later, with multiple corruption charges lodged against her and an Interpol warrant out for her arrest, she told me the story from Mexico, where she had recently been granted asylum.

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Bukele’s most conspicuous enabler during this period was the Trump Administration. 

The American Ambassador to El Salvador was a former mid-level C.I.A. staffer named Ronald Johnson, whose relationship with Bukele was characterized by friendly informality. 

All Trump cared about, a former Administration official told me, was immigration, and Bukele acted accordingly. 

In 2019, he was so eager to comply with a deal on asylum processing that his advisers e-mailed a signed copy of the agreement straight to the Department of Homeland Security. 

U.S. officials had to call them back to explain that the protocol was more involved. 

In return, Bukele “really wanted the State Department to lower the threat level for travel to El Salvador,” the former Administration official told me. 

“That was a really big thing to him. He was promoting Surf City.” (Eventually, the U.S. reduced the threat level, which officials claimed to have been reviewing before Bukele pushed for the change in status.)

A few weeks after Bukele’s stunt at the National Assembly, the first case of covid-19 was detected in El Salvador. 

On March 21st, Bukele declared a state of exception, issuing strict guidelines for a national quarantine. 

Those people who violated its terms were arrested and sent to “containment centers.” 

In theory, the centers were reserved for Salvadorans who’d been travelling abroad and needed to be tested. 

But they soon became de-facto jails, where returning travellers and anyone accused of ignoring the rules were held indefinitely, in many cases for longer than a month. 

Ten thousand people were detained in the early months of the pandemic.

The Supreme Court twice declared Bukele’s measures unconstitutional, but he ignored the rulings and accused the judges of threatening public health. 

“If I really were a dictator, I would shoot all of them,” Bukele said. “You save thousands of lives in exchange for five.” 

He publicly commanded the police and the military to make more arrests, in contravention of the judges’ orders. 

“The inflection point was the pandemic,” the former government official told me. “That’s when Bukele really started taking advantage.”

The public was too overwhelmed with its own survival to worry about the finer points of governance, and El Salvador’s infection rate stayed low compared with those of neighboring countries. 

In June, a gleaming new hospital for covid patients went up, billed as the biggest such facility in Latin America. (It remains unfinished.) 

The military distributed food to poor areas, and Bukele gave three hundred dollars in cash relief to more than a third of the country. 

“The people are seeing that he is working hard and doing things for the public,” a thirty-three-year-old named Gisele de Hernández, who worked in a tortilla shop, told the Spanish newspaper El País. 

Another person said, “Bukele isn’t dividing El Salvador. The country is already divided.”

The following February, when El Salvador held legislative elections, Nuevas Ideas won fifty-six of the eighty-four seats—a super-majority. 

The new members of the Assembly were a mixture of true believers and opportunists, but all were united in their loyalty to the person who had brought them to power. “Bukele is the Party,” a senior U.S. official told me.

The new legislators went after their first target on the day of their swearing in. They arrived at nine in the morning, and the session ran past midnight. 

“We entered without knowing anything,” Claudia Ortiz, of Vamos, told me. 

The Supreme Court magistrates who had opposed Bukele’s pandemic measures were summarily fired, for acting against the best interests of the public. 

The Nuevas Ideas bloc also fired the Attorney General, whose term was up at the end of the year. The President’s personal lawyer told an opposition lawmaker in private, 

“We have to be disruptive. People voted for us for a reason. They wanted us to change things radically. We’re going to change this place for good.” 

Four days later, the Assembly approved a law blocking all investigations into the government’s pandemic spending and shielding officials from corruption charges.

Bukele had assumed office saying that his relationship with the U.S. was “the No. 1 priority for us.” But the U.S. had a new President, and both countries had changed

“When we tried to normalize the relationship, he felt like we were pulling the rug out from under him,” the senior U.S. official told me. 

“We didn’t have the red carpets out, so he thought it was a deliberate attempt to embarrass him.” 

The Biden Administration began drawing up a list of sanctions against members of Bukele’s administration, for actions including corruption and conspiracy with the gangs. 

Bukele continued to meet Johnson, the previous Ambassador, in Miami, and he retained another American adviser, who shared the view that the Democrats wouldn’t control the White House for long. 

When Bukele decided to give a big interview in the winter of 2021, it wasn’t to the Salvadoran news media or to CNN but to Tucker Carlson. 

“He’s trying to ride the culture war,” the senior U.S. official told me. “But El Salvador does not have the luxury of deciding that one party is going to protect its interests forevermore.”


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Letter from El Salvador The Rise of @nayibbukele   El Salvador’s Authoritarian President @NewYorker @JonathanBlitzer [continued]

For the past three years, crypto evangelists from all over the world have made a pilgrimage to a rustic beach in El Salvador called El Zonte, where a middle-aged surfer from California named Mike Peterson launched an experimental charity. 

Its financing came from an anonymous philanthropist who imposed a single condition: the money had to be distributed entirely in bitcoin. 

Soon, mom-and-pop businesses, markets, and food stalls in the area were accepting the currency. El Zonte came to be known as Bitcoin Beach.

In the spring of 2021, Bitcoin Beach drew a minor crypto celebrity—Jack Mallers, a twenty-seven-year-old tech entrepreneur who was building an app called Strike. 

The service allows users to make money transfers, with no fees, on Lightning, a high-speed network that is linked to the technology behind Bitcoin. 

El Salvador fascinated Mallers for reasons that went beyond Bitcoin Beach. Twenty per cent of the country’s gross domestic product comes from remittances sent by Salvadorans living abroad, mostly in the U.S

But when immigrants use Western Union to transfer money they typically pay a hefty fee. “Lightning solves that,” Mallers has said. “It costs nothing to send one dollar or one thousand.” 

After living in Bitcoin Beach for a month, he started spending time in San Salvador. 

He was having a sushi dinner with friends one night when he noticed a direct message on Twitter. 

“Hi, Jack, this is a message on behalf of President Bukele,” it began. A few days later, Karim Bukele, wearing a hoodie, greeted Mallers and introduced him to his brother.

At the Bitcoin Conference in Miami that summer, Mallers presented Bukele, who addressed attendees by video, in fluent English. 

He announced that El Salvador would begin accepting bitcoin, and presented a heady case for how Bitcoin could solve some of El Salvador’s problems. 

Seventy per cent of Salvadorans don’t have bank accounts, but more than half of them use cell phones. 

“El Salvador has not been the country that’s recognized to be the first in innovation,” Bukele later told the podcaster Peter McCormack. “But why not this time?” 

Championing the currency has turned him into a global cult hero, a crusader against U.S. hegemony. 

“This is just exercising our sovereign right to adopt legal tenders, like we adopted the U.S. dollar in the year 2001,” he continued. 

“In 2001, it was probably done for the benefits of the banks, and this decision is done for the benefits of the people.”

Salvadorans found out about the Bitcoin policy from news reports after the Miami announcement. 

The following September, the Bukele administration presented its Bitcoin Law, which Mallers helped shape, and the National Assembly passed it without debate or modification.

Bitcoiners are skeptical of governments and central banks, but their goal is the universal adoption of the currency, and they need more countries to follow El Salvador’s lead. 

Even so, some of them were troubled by its example. The rush to create the Bitcoin Law resulted in confusing provisions: one article mandates that all merchants accept bitcoin, but another seems to hedge on that requirement. 

“The government operated on a startup’s timeline—move fast and break things,” Jill Gunter, the chief strategy officer at Espresso Systems, a blockchain company, told me. 

“But you’re talking about an actual sovereign nation, with the well-being of millions of people at stake.”

There were some red flags. Bitcoin users need both a public key and a private one to access their money, and many people rely on a “digital wallet” to store these keys. 

The government created its own—the Chivo Wallet app—but shared virtually no information about who was designing it or how it would work.

One afternoon, I was walking through the main plaza in Usulután, a small city in the country’s southeast, when I saw two soldiers standing guard outside a gleaming blue Chivo A.T.M. The unused machine looked like a monument, or a shrine. 

The businesses that accept bitcoin tend to be large international corporations (Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Starbucks); a recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce found that eighty-six per cent of the country’s commercial businesses have never conducted a bitcoin transaction.

Last November, during Bitcoin Week in El Salvador, Bukele made another announcement, this one from a beachfront stage rigged with strobe lights and jets of smoke. 

The sky lit up with fireworks, and on a giant screen behind him, in neon-blue letters, were the words “El Presidente.” The aesthetic was somewhere between a Kiss concert and an I.P.O

“When Alexander the Great was conquering the world, he established ‘Alexandrias,’ ” Bukele said. “These Alexandrias would be like beacons of hope for the rest of the world. We should build the first Alexandria here, in El Salvador. So we were thinking of building”—a pause for effect—“Bitcoin City.”

Bitcoin City would be an actual municipality, powered by the geothermal energy of a nearby volcano and funded by a new financial instrument called Bitcoin Bonds, or Volcano Bonds, which will pay yields tied to the sale of bitcoin

The issuance of these bonds, according to Bukele, would raise a billion dollars. The rush of investment would help fund schools, hospitals, and public works—in theory, at least. 

The question was who would invest in the bonds, given that, by most accounts, their returns were no better than those of the alternatives. Matt Levine, a columnist at Bloomberg, wrote, 

“People who like crypto will buy them and trade them with each other and feel a sense of kinship and community and fun. They are HODLers and whales, they get to hang out with the president of a country on a Saturday night.”

In attendance at the announcement was an American investor and early Bitcoin adopter named Max Keiser, who runs a fund called El Zonte Capital

He’s part of a group of international financiers who are selling the image of a dynamic new El Salvador. 

When we spoke, Keiser had just dined with Bukele at the Presidential Palace. He had flown in with his wife for the occasion, on a plane belonging to “Uncle Ricky,” the Mexican businessman and TV magnate Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who is a passionate Bitcoiner and a pro-Bukele partisan

Keiser tends to see conspiracies in high places. He suggested to me that the U.S. State Department had been involved in the gang killings in March, but he praised Bukele’s state of exception as “phenomenal.” 

“Some suggest human rights have been violated. I would say that the human rights of seven million Salvadorans are what matters,” he said. 

“Imagine J.F.K. if he had Bitcoin to do battle with the C.I.A. and central banks—and what you get is President Bukele today. El Salvador is the new Camelot.”

Since El Salvador adopted bitcoin, the currency’s value has fluctuated wildly. But Bukele continued to buy more of it with state funds, including a hundred coins last November and five hundred more in early May, after the price dropped. 

“El Salvador just bought the dip!” he wrote on Twitter. The country now holds some twenty-four hundred bitcoins, worth approximately forty-eight million dollars, or roughly half what Bukele paid for them.

Short-term losses are hardly the biggest danger to the Salvadoran economy. The International Monetary Fund, from which El Salvador sought a $1.3-billion loan, considers bitcoin a threat both to the global financial system and to the country’s immediate solvency. 

In January, 2023, El Salvador will need to make one eight-hundred-million-dollar bond payment, followed by another, in 2025

“The financial markets now see El Salvador as much riskier than before,” the economist Ricardo Castaneda told me. 

“The reasons are failures of democratic institutions, the adoption of bitcoin, and the lack of certainty about plans for paying off the country’s debt.” The former government official told me, 

“Bitcoin investment is a cloud that doesn’t exist. The state reserves are the last resource for the government to pay for basic needs. Maybe it can get them to the 2024 elections.”

Nuevas Ideas shows no signs of losing its super-majority in Congress, yet its members live in fear of misspeaking. 

Late last year, two of the Party’s congressmen were recorded sharing concerns over the phone about losing their travel visas as a result of U.S. sanctions. Both have been forced from their jobs and are currently under investigation.

The only member of the Bukele government willing to speak with me was the Vice-President, Félix Ulloa, Jr. 

He received me one morning at his official residence, in an upscale neighborhood of San Salvador. He sat in a high-backed wood chair with blue velvet trim

On the wall was a surrealist painting of Lady Justice, blindfolded, with her body floating in three unconnected pieces among the clouds. 

Ulloa, a short man with long hair and a copper-colored beard, is a constitutional scholar with degrees from universities in three countries. 

He is thirty years older than the President he serves, and a veteran of left-wing causes.

“I have been a social warrior all my life, and I fought not just with words—we took up arms,” he told me. 

This was a reference to the war years, when he was a student radical. “We fought against a dictatorship. . . . Those who say this is a dictatorship don’t know what a dictatorship is.” 

He continued, “We spent the two years of the pandemic clashing with Congress.” It was “an assembly dominated by the two parties which blocked everything the President proposed.”

We spoke for an hour, during which he delivered a litany of economic-growth figures, improved homicide statistics, and news of prominent foreign investors who had visited the country. 

Tourism was up, and preparations were under way for an international surfing competition. 

But all topics led back to a fact that no one could refute: the President and his party had won their elections and continued to enjoy overwhelming public support. 

Until Bukele lost a vote or rigged an election, the rest was academic. 

At the end of the month, the state of exception was due to expire. 

Would the Assembly extend it? I asked. “During the war, we lived six years with a state of exception,” he replied. There was “nothing strange” about doing it again.

On a recent night, I was speaking with a woman named Karen, whose husband had been arrested during a work break at a taxi stand in a town near San Salvador. 

He and his employee were eating pupusas on the street, and, when a cook from the food stall walked over to collect their money, a group of officers converged on the three of them. 

The charge was “illegal gathering.” A jealous neighbor may have called in a tip—Karen’s husband had never been arrested, and he was a fixture at their local church. H

e had also enthusiastically voted for Bukele in 2019. Baffled, Karen tried everything, including speaking to local reporters to publicize the case, but nothing changed. 

When she first told me the story, we were hunched over a small table in the food court of a mall, her face teary.

We stayed in touch as the state of exception kept getting extended. It is still in effect, even though daily homicides have dropped. 

Each month, when the Assembly has to renew it, the Speaker convenes the body with an announcement on Twitter. 

Nuevas Ideas members reply enthusiastically, with emojis and updated profile pictures. 

Most of them retweet Bukele, who routinely announces days with zero homicides. 

“Seguimos,” he says, at the end of each one—“Onward.” Fifty thousand people have now been detained.

“There’s no official policy beyond giving people blanket sentences and keeping them detained,” Rina Montti, of Cristosal, told me. 

“We’ve been to hearings where there are between three hundred and five hundred people being tried en masse. But there’s no actual criminal investigation.” 

Cristosal has been documenting detention conditions based on individual complaints brought by family members of detainees. At least seventy people have died while in custody.

Karen has two small children, and she was now caring for them while working two jobs—her own and her husband’s. 

In the first weeks after his arrest, she found time every morning to visit Izalco, the prison where he was being held. 

It was a two-hour trip, and she made it to prove her vigilance, since the prison didn’t allow visitors. 

The crowds of women who’d once gathered outside small police precincts were now reassembling each day in front of Izalco and Mariona, the two prisons, both overcrowded, where nearly everyone had been sent.

The last time Karen and I spoke, she told me that she could no longer make the trips to see her husband. 

“Too much work,” she said. Her voice was dry, almost raspy with exhaustion. “Everyone is getting six months” in prison, she added. He was now more than halfway through, though his crime remained a mystery. ♦

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GameKyuubi posted "I AM HODLING," a drunk, semi-coherent, typo-laden rant about his poor trading skills and determination to simply hold his bitcoin from that point on. #Bitcoin
Frontier Markets

GameKyuubi posted "I AM HODLING," a drunk, semi-coherent, typo-laden rant about his poor trading skills and determination to simply hold his bitcoin from that point on. #Bitcoin 

"I type d that tyitle twice because I knew it was wrong the first time. Still wrong. w/e," he wrote in reference to the now-famous misspelling of "holding."
"WHY AM I HOLDING? I'LL TELL YOU WHY," he continued.
"It's because I'm a bad trader and I KNOW I'M A BAD TRADER.  Yeah you good traders can spot the highs and the lows pit pat piffy wing wong wang just like that and make a millino bucks sure no problem bro."
He concluded that the best course was to hold, since "You only sell in a bear market if you are a good day trader or an illusioned noob.  The people inbetween hold. In a zero-sum game such as this, traders can only take your money if you sell."
He then confessed he'd had some whiskey and briefly mused about the spelling of whisk(e)y.  [HODL Definition | Investopedia]

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Anybody can be decisive during a panic It takes a strong Man to act during a Boom. VS NAIPAUL
Frontier Markets

Anybody can be decisive during a panic It takes a strong Man to act during a Boom. VS NAIPAUL

“The businessman bought at ten and was happy to get out at twelve; the mathematician saw his ten rise to eighteen, but didn’t sell because he wanted to double his ten to twenty.”

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27 NOV 17 :: Bitcoin "Wow! What a Ride!". #Bitcoin
Frontier Markets

27 NOV 17 :: Bitcoin "Wow! What a Ride!".  #Bitcoin

T.S Eliot said in The Hollow Men 

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom.

There are many cryptocurrency schemes which are sold on the same grounds as the greatest South Sea Bubble prospectus: 

“For carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.”
Let me leave you with Hunter S. Thompson, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Crypto-bros think Bitcoin is an antidote to

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What’s behind the sharp drop in Bitcoin’s value? $BTC #Bitcoin @AJInsideStory
World Currencies

What’s behind the sharp drop in Bitcoin’s value? $BTC #Bitcoin @AJInsideStory 

Presenter: Sami Zeidan
Aly-Khan Satchu – Investor and CEO at Rich Management
Naeem Aslam – Chief market analyst at AvaTrade
Brian Lucey – Professor of international finance and commodities at Trinity Business School

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The official result was 51% for the MPLA, 44% for UNITA. @Reuters

'According to UNITA's parallel count, it got 49.5% of the vote and the MPLA 48.2%. A parallel count by civic movement Mudei, which monitored the process, also showed UNITA slightly ahead.'

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‘Unwinnable war’ resumes in Tigray @thecontinent_

@CrisisGroup  called on the government to address the issues that stalled the peace process, rather than go back into what it calls an “unwinnable war”.

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“The outlook for the Horn over the next year is on a sharp downward trajectory.” . Ben Hunter, an Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, Bloomberg Next Africa By @AntonySguazzin

“The outlook for the Horn over the next year is on a sharp downward trajectory.” . Ben Hunter, an Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, Bloomberg Next Africa By @AntonySguazzin

Sudan’s military rulers are curbing the rights of women and religious minorities, Ethiopia’s internecine conflict has flared up and Somalia is heading into a famine

The progress made in recent years in the Horn of Africa is being rolled back and, as ever, its most vulnerable people are paying the price. 
Climate change has played a role but it’s largely a crisis of governance. 
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2020 became embroiled in a conflict with the restive Tigray region that was always going to be a struggle to win. 

Sudan’s generals are storing up trouble by ignoring a popular uprising that ousted long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and the weakness of the Somalian state means that it has little capacity to respond to the humanitarian disaster that’s unfolding. 
Just two or three years ago it all seemed so promising. 

Ethiopia was one of the world’s fastest growing economies and Abiy was enacting democratic reforms, Sudan was coming in from the cold after decades of US sanctions. 

Somalia, often described as a failed state, was showing signs of progress in rebuilding its society and economy. 
Now, there’s even a risk of a wider regional conflict with Eritrean forces helping Abiy’s government fight dissidents in Tigray and tensions are rising on the border between Ethiopia and Sudan. 

Somalia is on the brink of a famine and predictions are the next rainy season will fail again.
“We are only beginning to see the social and economic impacts in Somalia and there really is no end to sight to the war in Ethiopia,” said Ben Hunter, an Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a political risk consultancy. 

“The outlook for the Horn over the next year is on a sharp downward trajectory.”

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South Africa’s gross domestic product contracted 0.7% in the three months through June, compared with downwardly revised growth of 1.7% in the previous quarter. Bloomberg Next Africa @AntonySguazzin

It means the nation’s economy is smaller than it was before the coronavirus pandemic struck, after the worst flooding in almost three decades and severe power outages.

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Mega Sale | Naspers’s Dutch unit, Prosus, continued its plan to cut back its stake in Tencent, the latest in a series of moves from early backers to unwind bets on Chinese companies. Next Africa By Antony Sguazzin

Tencent shares worth $7.6 billion appeared in Hong Kong’s clearing and settlement system, typically a precursor to offloading stock. 

Prosus later said it sold 1.115 million shares in Tencent, bringing its total ownership in the company to 27.99%.

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Nigeria lost its crown as Africa’s largest crude producer in August, with Angola surpassing it for the first time since April 2017, according to Bloomberg’s survey of OPEC output. @business @WTBClowes

Nigeria lost its crown as Africa’s largest crude producer in August, with Angola surpassing it for the first time since April 2017, according to Bloomberg’s survey of OPEC output. @business @WTBClowes

Nigeria lost its crown as Africa’s largest crude producer as Angola surpassed the country for the first time in more than five years.
Angola’s average daily output in August of 1.17 million barrels was more than Nigeria’s at 1.13 million barrels, according to Bloomberg’s survey of monthly OPEC output. 

The last time that happened was in April 2017 when both nations were pumping about 500,000 barrels a day more, the same data show.

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The Greater Tortue Ahmeyin project, straddling the Senegal-Mauritania border, is being developed by BP and Kosmos Energy. It will produce an estimated 2.5 million tons of LNG annually during a first phase. Next Africa By Antony Sguazzin

The Greater Tortue Ahmeyin project, straddling the Senegal-Mauritania border, is being developed by BP and Kosmos Energy. It will produce an estimated 2.5 million tons of LNG annually during a first phase. Next Africa By Antony Sguazzin

Liquefied natural gas produced from a $4.8 billion West African project set to come online in the third quarter of next year will likely be exported to Europe and Asia, Senegalese President Macky Sall said in an interview. 

The Greater Tortue Ahmeyin project, straddling the Senegal-Mauritania border, is being developed by BP and Kosmos Energy. 

It will produce an estimated 2.5 million tons of LNG annually during a first phase.

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KENYA Kenyatta's securocrats cast into the cold @Africa_Conf
Law & Politics

KENYA Kenyatta's securocrats cast into the cold @Africa_Conf 

Presidential winner William Ruto accused his erstwhile ally Kenyatta of weaponising the state against him – now he will start the purge
William Ruto's ascent to the presidency on 5 September leaves him with a raft of political debts to pay. 

Reminiscent of Uhuru Kenyatta's 2013 accession, it has also created a group of high-profile political 'orphans' from government ministries and the security services.

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Media bias let Kenyans down @thecontinent_
Law & Politics

Media bias let Kenyans down @thecontinent_ 

Most of the main newspapers and television stations leaned heavily towards the “establishment” candidate, Raila Odinga, including publishing dubious opinion polls in his favour, abandoning their “independent” tallying of the vote when it became clear Ruto had won, and failing to report critically on the outlandish accusations of election rigging made by Odinga’s allies.
It is hardly surprising that in his first speech after the court verdict president- elect Ruto mockingly asked, “Where are my friends from Citizen?” – a station that gave him significantly less airtime.

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The new President's communication team has chosen a private contractor to cover the inauguration of the 5th President of Kenya. Local media will receive the contractor's live feed. @murayakariuki
Law & Politics

The new President's communication team has chosen a private contractor to cover the inauguration of the 5th President of Kenya. Local media which would have done a joint production at no charge will receive the contractor's live feed.

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George Natembeya, the newly elected governor of Kenya’s Trans-Nzoia county, has received public praise for his strict rules on meeting times. @thecontinent_
Law & Politics

George Natembeya, the newly elected governor of Kenya’s Trans-Nzoia county, has received public praise for his strict rules on meeting times. @thecontinent_ 

When some officials on his executive team arrived late for a meeting, Natembeya did not permit them to enter. 

“When I say we meet at 9am sharp I mean 9am sharp and not 9.01am. I personally arrived here five minutes earlier so everyone should learn to keep time,” he said. 

“Past the said time, if you are out, remain there.”

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#Ethiopia's @SafaricomET to get up to $160 million in equity from @IFC_org @PatrickHeinisc1
N.S.E Equities - Commercial & Services

#Ethiopia's @SafaricomET to get up to $160 million in equity from  @IFC_org @PatrickHeinisc1

The mobile network operator plans to have its network up and running in 25 Ethiopian cities by April 2023

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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September 2022

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