Here’s why the Madeira Archipelago is “accepting” Bitcoin and how its president fell down the BTC rabbit hole.
The Tiny Portuguese Archipelago of Madeira Has “Adopted” Bitcoin (BTC) — But What Does That Mean? The announcement, made during the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, dismissed the confusion and misinformation.
Miguel Albuquerque, President of the Madeira Regional Government, took the stage in April to announce, “I believe in the future and I believe in bitcoin.” He also said he will work to create “a fantastic environment for bitcoin in Madeira create”. However, the details remained unclear.
Cointelegraph spoke to André Loja, the Madeiran entrepreneur who spearheaded the plan to ship BTC to an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, to explore how Bitcoin is affecting island development.
Madeira exploded on the Bitcoin world map on April 7 when Samson Moe, CEO of JAN3, proudly announced that he would “accept Bitcoin”.
Following the announcement, news outlets around the world reported that Madeira had accepted bitcoin as legal tender; But this was not the case. Loja told Cointelegraph that he would have preferred to use the phrase “Madeira accepts Bitcoin” before the announcement.
“We accept that, we support it. We don’t “accept” bitcoin because accepting it makes it look like making it legal tender when in fact it’s already legal.”
In fact, there is no tax on capital gains in bitcoin in Madeira and throughout Portugal, which is about 620 miles northeast. This means that every time a Madeiran resident manages, spends or uses BTC, they do not have to report it to the tax authorities.
Just weeks before the conference, Loja spooked the President of Madeira by sharing his vision of Bitcoin not only as a means of attracting foreign investment but also as “protecting my island from the fiat system”.
Albuquerque happened to visit Loja’s coworking space – one of the few places in Madeira that accepts BTC – and Loja took the opportunity to share his passion for Bitcoin. Madeira has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with key tourism revenues falling. Among other things, Loja presented the President with the future of Bitcoin as a means of diversifying and restructuring Madeira’s economy.
Albuquerque was reportedly open to the idea, so Loja quickly reached out to bitcoiners around the world for help, including Daniel Prince, a well-known bitcoin podcaster; Jeff Booth, author of Tomorrow’s Price; and even Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy.
Within weeks, the all-star team of bitcoiners contacted Bitcoin 2022 organizers to arrange for the president to appear on stage. Ultimately, the autonomous region’s head of state’s endorsement of Bitcoin was too great an opportunity to pass up.
After landing in Miami, Loja and Albuquerque were invited to the luxurious Sailor Villa in Miami, “with yachts and all,” Loja joked. While Loha had already injected the President with an orange pill, the conversation with Sailor was on another level:
“Michael Saylor sat down with President Albuquerque, and […] it was more like he sat down with his head!”
Saylor told Albuquerque that “You need to focus on Bitcoin. Anything else is rubbish.” A conversation the President is sure not to forget, the seminar was preparation enough for him to take the stage in front of 25,000 Bitcoin enthusiasts.
Loja explained that the announcement of Madeira accepting bitcoin would trigger Madeira’s “intent” to become an island where bitcoin thrives with the people. For Loja, who has previously translated popular books on Bitcoin into Portuguese, “everything starts with education – the most important thing.”
Loja (far right), President of Albuquerque (middle with book) and Knut Swanholm (far left) in Madeira in May 2022. Source: Loha.
In fact, during the 2018 bear market, Loja had his teeth jammed. As a passionate educator, Loja works closely with other educators in the field, such as B. Knut Swanholm, author of Bitcoin: Everything Divided by 21 Million, to teach the principles of sound money:
“I have many ideas, from kindergarten to adult schools and workshops, and I invite people from outside the island. The association will have the best people as advisors.”
To this end, Loja establishes the Sound Money Foundation, a Bitcoin education center in Madeira. Supported by Moe and Booth in particular, the center aims to help locals better understand crypto from a young age.
In addition to striving for education and