Madeira ’embracing’ Bitcoin, and how its boss met Michael Saylor

The tiny Portuguese archipelago of Madeira has adopted Bitcoin (BTC) – but what does that mean? The announcement, which was made during the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, dismissed confusion and misinformation.

Miguel Albuquerque, head of the Madeira regional government, took to the stage in April to declare: “I believe in the future, I believe in bitcoin.” He also said that he would “create a great environment for Bitcoin in Madeira.” However, the details remained unclear.

Cointelegraph spoke to André Loja, a Madeira businessman who spearheaded a plan to bring BTC to the Atlantic archipelago, to find out how Bitcoin is shaping the development of the islands.

Madeira exploded onto the world bitcoin map on April 7 when JAN3 CEO Samson Mao proudly announced that it would “adopt bitcoin.”

Upon the announcement, media outlets around the world reported that Madeira had adopted bitcoin as legal tender; However, this was not the case. Luja explained to Cointelegraph that before the announcement, he would have preferred to use the phrase “Madeira embraces bitcoin.”

We embrace and support him. We don’t “adopt” bitcoin because adoption feels like we’re making it legal when it’s already de facto legal.”

In fact, in Madeira and across Portugal – which is about 620 miles to the northeast – there is no tax on Bitcoin capital gains. This means that any time a Madeira resident disposes, spends or uses BTC, it does not need to be declared to the tax authorities.

Luja Orange, President of Madeira a few weeks before the conference, where he shared his vision of bitcoin not only as a way to attract foreign investment but also to “protect my island from the fiat system.”

By chance, Albuquerque came to visit the co-working space in Loja – one of the few places to accept BTC in Madeira – and Loja took the opportunity to share his passion for Bitcoin. Madeira has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic as significant tourism revenue has fallen off a cliff. Therefore, Loja presented the future of Bitcoin to the president as a way to diversify and restructure Madeira’s economy, among other benefits.

Albuquerque was reportedly open to the idea, so Loja quickly sought help from Bitcoiners around the world, including Daniel Prince, the popular Bitcoin podcast; Jeff Booth, author Tomorrow’s price And even Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy.

Within weeks, the Bitcoiner All-Star Team contacted the Bitcoin 2022 organizers to organize the president’s appearance on stage. In the end, the presence of the Head of State of the Autonomous Region in favor of Bitcoin was too great an opportunity to miss.

Upon landing in Miami, Loja and Albuquerque were invited to Saylor’s sparkling villa in Miami, “with yachts and everything,” Loja joked. While Loja had already hit the boss orange, the conversation with Saylor was on another level:

Michael Saylor sat down with President Albuquerque, well, […] It was like sitting on his head! “

“You have to focus on bitcoin,” Saylor told Albuquerque. “Everything else is rubbish.” A conversation the president is unlikely to forget, the symposium was enough preparation for him to jump on stage in front of 25,000 Bitcoin fans.

Luja explained that announcing Madeira’s adoption of bitcoin would “initiate an intent” for Madeira to become an island where bitcoin thrives alongside people. For Loja, who has already translated popular Bitcoin-related books into Portuguese, “it starts with education – the most important thing.”

Loja (far right), President Albuquerque (center with a book) and Knut Svanholm (far left) in Madeira in May 2022. Source: Loja

In fact, Loja cut his teeth during the 2018 bear market. A passionate teacher, Loja works closely with other teachers in the field, such as Knut Svanholm, author of Bitcoin: everything is divided by 21 million, To teach the principles of sound money:

“I have a lot of ideas, from kindergarten to schools to adult workshops – and to bring in people from outside the island. The association will have the best people as advisors.”

To this end, Loja founded the Sound Money Foundation, a Bitcoin education center in Madeira. The center is backed by Mow and Booth, among others, and seeks to help local residents better understand cryptocurrency from an early age.

Accompanying an education campaign and a focus on improving “financial literacy,” Loja’s hometown also attracts Bitcoin companies with attractive financial incentives. In the International Business Center, companies only pay a 5% business tax, which is a very competitive rate. Portugal was already an emerging hub for individual bitcoins, but now companies can reap the benefits.

Related: Bitcoin, Bukele and a group of central bankers meet in El Salvador

Furthermore, Loja plans for the autonomous government of Madeira to mine bitcoin using remaining renewable energy – the island has plenty of wind and sunshine – and even use a “multi-signature wallet for the government to work with Bitcoin financially”.

The International Business Center of Madeira. Source: IBC

As a result, the government will take full custody of the bitcoin mines by controlling the private keys. Loga highlighted that the electric power grid is a self-contained “public company,” so any bitcoin mined by the network will go into government multi-signature wallets.

In essence, Madeira’s approach to bitcoin goes beyond the case of acclaimed legal tender. From BTC mining and public sector education to state-run multisig wallets and Saylor’s presence in speed dial, the island is slowly moving toward the future of Bitcoin.

Not surprisingly, Loja’s overall approach to the island to “embrace” bitcoin has a low time preference.