Freshman Mexican Senator Indira Kempis made headlines last year when she introduced a bill that would create of a central bank digital currency (CBDC). Now, she has her eyes set on making Bitcoin an integral part of her political agenda.
Kempis is a congresswoman from the state of Nuevo León, which is situated north of Mexico City and shares a small border with Texas. After coming across Bitcoin several times “and not really understanding it,” she told Decrypt that she knew she had to take a closer look after learning of obstacles that entrepreneurs were facing.
Having helped the group that later became Bitso, the largest exchange in the country, Kempis began to open the conversation in the legislative branch and push forward what she considers “the road to creative alternatives.”
She set forth the aforementioned bill, which had no mention of Bitcoin or decentralized assets in its original form. It was a pragmatic approach, she said, and a first step towards establishing the necessary legal framework for the country to acknowledge—and ultimately accept—Bitcoin as legal tender.
In her initial bill, the country’s central bank, the Banco de México, would be the sole issuer of digital currency. Having felt the backlash for introducing a CBDC by the crypto community–although she claims “it was a necessary step to open the discussion”–Kempis modified the proposal to include Bitcoin.
It’s been an arduous journey, she told Decrypt, pointing out that after a Bitcoin ATM was installed inside the Mexican Senate, members of the Mexican congress and their teams are beginning to ask more questions.
There wasn’t much opposition to her bill initially, “because nobody really understood Bitcoin,” Kempis recalled. Now, it’s getting attention, both positive and negative. But she says she doesn’t get upset when she runs across detractors, because their rejection still means “we are moving the system.”
Kempis said she would like to see a heat map of Mexico showing where legislators stand regarding the bill. “I’m looking for clear positions,” she explained, hoping to communicate to the Mexican public whether their representatives are interested or not in this type of innovation.
Mexico is known for its blossoming tech scene, a pioneering fintech law industry, and a tech-savvy population. In a recent Chainalysis report, it landed below the regional average for centralized exchange use (which is more common in Latin America), suggesting that Mexicans have a wider set of crypto products available to them.
The senator also pointed out that digital wallets are now available in indigenous languages, which are spoken by 6% of the population, and that remittances have been growing of late, registering a nearly 10% jump year-on-year.
The bill is being discussed, but has a long way to go. The country’s Central Bank is an integral part of the legislative process, although it claims autonomy, and the Mexican senate has requested a formal analysis and stance from the institution. It hasn’t arrived yet.
The former head of the central bank was a staunch critic of Bitcoin, said Kempis, whereas his successor, the current governor Victoria Rodríguez, has remained silent in most of the discussions surrounding Bitcoin.
Other politicians are not sold. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, came out to assure that Mexico “would not” adopt Bitcoin as legal tender after Nayib Bukele’s El Salvador approved its pioneering Bitcoin law.
That said, the digital peso, which the financial institution is aiming for, should arrive sometime in 2024, the senator said.
Announcing a run for the Presidency in the upcoming 2024 elections, Kempis said she plans to continue on her Bitcoin crusade.
Beyond the possibility of being president, the role of the legislative branch, for Senator Kempis, is to offer “a dose” of education and help push the discussion along the way through well-thought-out laws and regulations. “If El Salvador could do it, surely we can as well,” she said.
At the end of the day, however, Kempis does take a practical approach to the technology, telling Decrypt that it won’t solve all of Mexico’s problems. Despite her bullishness, she concluded, “It’s not a panacea.”
Edited by Ryan Ozawa.