This week’s Financial Freedom report covers everything from extreme inflation under regimes in Zimbabwe and Iran to a newly exposed vulnerability allowing tyrants to track mobile phone usage of their citizens to Bitcoin software updates putting more power in the hands of users worldwide.
Enjoy this week’s highlights, which include sections on Global News, the Latest in Bitcoin, and Recommended Content featuring a superb video and interview we thought worth sharing.
Zimbabwe | Inflation
Zimbabwe’s inflation peaked at a staggering 175% this year. Economic growth is predicted to fall from 5.5% in 2023 to 3.5% in 2024 despite an expanding population. As state income and borrowing capacity falls, the ZANU-PF party plans to increase revenue by raising toll fees, creating a levy for soda, and introducing a wealth tax. Living standards continue to decrease in a country already stricken by a severe human rights crisis.
El Salvador | Constitutional Subversion
The constitution of El Salvador bars presidents from serving two consecutive terms. But President Nayib Bukele devised a way to subvert this limit: by temporarily stepping back from the presidency for a six-month period to campaign for reelection. Although the country’s Congress (supermajority-controlled by Bukele’s party) approved the plan and cleared the president’s private secretary to act as interim leader, Bukele’s move violates a minimum of four articles in the country’s constitution, consolidates his control, and erodes the separation of powers. This development should be concerning for anyone counting on Bukele to uphold civil liberties, financial freedom, and property rights.
Hong Kong | Precrime and Surveillance
Hong Kong authorities have arrested 77-year-old activist Koo Sze-yiu on suspicion of — according to a police statement released to the public — attempting or preparing sedition. Violation of the colonial-era Sedition Law could mean up to two years in prison. Detention of dissidents without evidence based on what they might do in the future is obviously a worrying precedent and one that may further chill political dissent and financial activity in Hong Kong and beyond.
Bangladesh | Data Leaks
The National Telecommunication Monitoring Center (NTMC) in Bangladesh has long been collecting the personal information of citizens through an unsecured webserver. This past week, it was hacked. From personal phone numbers and vehicle registrations to blood types, bank account details, passport information, and fingerprint photos, the incident exposes the granular detail that the state is collecting on the public and shows how unsafe centralized data storage remains, especially in authoritarian regimes where civil rights groups cannot campaign for better data protection laws.
Iran | Economic Crisis
According to a national economic watchdog organization, Iran’s inflation hit 54.8%, the highest number in nearly two years. The regime stopped publishing regular inflation and price data in 2019, and in a new attempt to conceal inflation numbers, it shut down a reformist newspaper for reporting on the rise in meat prices. The rial has lost 80% of its value since 2021, and the decline in purchasing power is so dramatic that some workers are reportedly surviving on “one egg per day.”
International | Surveillance
Per a new Congressional report, governments are spying on iPhone and Android users through mobile “push” notifications. These informational pop-ups present an opportunity for an adversary to harvest your personal information. The pushes could, for example, help a dictatorship link an anonymous internet user to an ID-linked Apple or Google account. New US government policy will allow Apple and Google to reveal more information on exactly how this transpires moving forward.
The Latest in Bitcoin Development and Education
Splice | Cross-Border Payments in Africa
Splice is an Africa-focused service using automated foreign exchange swaps with Taproot Assets on the Lightning Network to eliminate costly overseas intermediaries and reduce transaction friction. The service will offer a peer-to-peer non-KYC system for cross-border payments through mobile money agents, moving instantly over Lightning but shielded from volatility by Taproot Assets. Here is a one-minute live demo, which premiered at the Africa Bitcoin Conference in Accra.
Ledger Live | User Tracking
An anonymous X user revealed that almost every single component on the web app Ledger Live is harvesting user information about payments and funds to a third-party source. This surveillance has apparently been occurring since a Ledger Live software update in 2019. Recommendation: Switch to an open-source hardware wallet and use a client like Electrum or Sparrow Wallet.
Spiral | Open Source Funding
Spiral announced two grant renewals for Johannes Hoffman, who monitors Bitcoin P2P network metrics at 21 Ninja in an effort to contribute to stats that may prove useful to the Bitcoin developer community, as well as the VLS Project, which separates Lightning private keys and security rule validation from Lightning nodes, helping to improve user security.
Bitcoin Mining | Mining in Africa Report
Africa’s massively untapped hydroelectric energy and potential mini-grid infrastructure present significant opportunities for miners, according to the recently published Bitcoin Mining in Africa report. The Luxor-authored report examined the ease of doing business, electricity capacity, power prices, and import tariffs across the African continent and ranked Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia as having the most potential for Bitcoin mining growth in the future.
Coin Center | Privacy
The US Department of the Treasury disclosed proposals to strengthen authorities financing counter-terrorism. In their recommendations, entities like wallet providers, Bitcoin nodes, and decentralized finance services could be treated as “financial institutions” under the Bank Secrecy Act. Coin Center argues that these measures could lead to the censorship of Bitcoin Wallets, affecting users in dozens of countries worldwide.
Primal | Decentralized Social Media
Primal, a social media application built on Nostr, is now live on the App Store. The release comes with an integrated lightning wallet, the ability to send and receive lightning payments and to buy small amounts of sats via an in-app purchase. For human rights advocates in difficult political environments, applications like Primal may provide an effective communication tool to avoid censorship and share news online without disclosing their identity.
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Navalny Foundation Needs Bitcoin
By Anna Chekhovich, CFO at Navalny Foundation
In this keynote speech, Anna Chekovich outlines the challenges of working for an organization founded by Russian opposition leader Alexander Navalny. From frozen bank accounts to home raids, imprisonment, and assassination, the Russian government’s effort to silence and suppress dissidents has no limits. Speaking from first-hand experience, Anna sheds light on how dictators collude with banks to intimidate opposition leaders through de-platforming and advocates for Bitcoin as a tool to empower resistance against authoritarian regimes.
Growing a Bitcoin Circular Economy
By Fernando Motolese, founder of Praia Bitcoin circular economy
According to Praia Bitcoin founder Fernando Motolese, 80% of Brazilians cannot save for the future. But in Praia Bitcoin’s circular economy, locals can save and spend in bitcoin. In fact, earlier this year, a new record was set with 71 Lightning transactions made in three minutes and 33 seconds. “[Lightning] is superior to VISA,” he says. In this podcast episode, Fernando discusses launching Praia Bitcoin, educating locals on bitcoin, and onboarding merchants onto Bitcoin. He also shares that about 50% of local merchants save in bitcoin, 35% spend it, and 25% cash out. This highlights the growth of a parallel world with Bitcoin-native commerce at a time when the Brazilian government is piloting the central bank digital currency DREX.
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