New presidential contender ‘bitcoin mayor’ Francis Suarez is major crypto evangelist

Francis Suarez
FILE – Miami Mayor Francis Suarez speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, Friday, March 3, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) Alex Brandon/AP

New presidential contender ‘bitcoin mayor’ Francis Suarez is major crypto evangelist

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Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is the latest Republican to jump into the race for president. Here is a look at some of the actions he has taken to promote cryptocurrency.

Suarez, 45, is a long-shot contender for the Republican nomination, but his candidacy will undoubtedly shine some more light on the cryptocurrency industry and how much it has grown over the past several years. Suarez is one of the most committed digital asset proponents in elected office, and his tenure as mayor over the past five or so years reflects that.

Taking salary in bitcoin

Suarez announced in late 2021 that he would be accepting 100% of his salary as mayor in the form of bitcoin. He told Fox News at the time that the move would “send a message to the world that we are going to be one of the most innovative governments and innovative cities on the planet.”

He also opened the door for other city employees to follow suit.

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“It will be completely optional,” he said. “We want our employees to have that option, but it certainly is not going to be something we are going to force on them, understanding that a decision like that is a personal decision they have to make if they want to make it.”

When Suarez announced the move, bitcoin had just soared to impressive record highs, peaking at about $69,000 per coin. Last year was a terrible one for the cryptocurrency space and saw digital assets across the board hemorrhage value. This year has fared better, although bitcoin is still down to $25,000, a 63% decline from its November 2021 zenith.

MiamiCoin

In fact, Suarez was so bullish on crypto that he pushed for the creation of a digital token for the city, MiamiCoin.

The idea behind MiamiCoin was that it would raise revenue for the city while promoting Miami’s embrace of cryptocurrency and related technologies. As part of an arrangement with CityCoins, 30% of MiamiCoin miners’ proceeds go to the city. After launching in 2022, the government received a more than $5 million disbursement from CityCoins, which was allocated to a city rental assistance program.

But MiamiCoin’s ambitions have since fallen amid the broader rout in the cryptocurrency market that overshadowed the industry last year. The coin peaked at about 5 cents per token but is now essentially worthless. OKCoin was the only crypto exchange that platformed MiamiCoin and announced last March that it was suspending trading of the coin because of liquidity issues.

“Limited liquidity for these coins on our platform has created the possibility of price manipulation and fraudulent activity,” OKCoin said in a statement. “As a result, we will suspend trading until we can address these potential risks and protect our customers.”

Courting crypto companies

Suarez has pushed for Miami to become a Silicon Valley-type hub for the cryptocurrency industry.

The mayor has emphasized the area’s low taxes and relatively lax regulatory environment as being the perfect haven for crypto startups. Perhaps the biggest move came in 2022 when now-defunct crypto giant FTX moved its U.S. headquarters to the area.

FTX, which has since been disgraced and its founder arrested, ended up buying naming rights to the arena where the Miami Heat play for more than $100 million, although the deal was eventually terminated after FTX’s sudden and dramatic collapse late last year.

Other cryptocurrency companies also relocated to the city, including Blockchain.com. In its 2021 announcement about the move, Blockchain.com said that part of its plan for expansion included “aggressive hiring throughout the local Miami job market.”

“Blockchain.com’s arrival in Miami perfectly encapsulates what the Miami Movement is all about — leveraging Miami’s talent against the world’s top companies in order to build towards our goal of becoming a Miami that lasts forever and a Miami that works for everyone,” Suarez said at the time.

Still a believer

Despite 2022 being a terrible year for crypto as a whole and some of Suarez’s initiatives struggling, the Miami mayor is still a true believer in cryptocurrency and the technology, such as blockchain, that underlies it.

Last year, in an interview with CoinDesk, Suarez was asked about his faith in MiamiCoin and cryptocurrency at large given that both had tumbled so precipitously. He argued that the technology is here to stay and that he remains bullish on the industry.

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“You know people ask me the same thing about bitcoin, the fact that it’s lost more than 50% of its value, but that doesn’t change my feelings about the fundamental technology,” Suarez said.

The Washington Examiner reached out to Suarez’s office for comment about his cryptocurrency initiatives.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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