Jose Antonio Potes and his childhood friend Manuel Castrillón travelled to El Salvador hoping to find the safe, prosperous, tech-friendly paradise that they had heard about in Colombian media.

President Nayib Bukele’s draconian crackdown on gangs and ambitious plans to convert the country into a bitcoin-powered regional powerhouse have made him the most popular leader in Latin America – and El Salvador a destination for surfers and tech-bros alike.

“We’d heard about this transformation: that there were no more gangs, that things had gotten really safe and that there was an infrastructure boom because of all the investment,” said Castrillón. “We thought we could thrive there.”