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Cryptocurrency as a means of payment: El Salvador in Bitcoin fever?

Status: 07.09.2021 6:18 p.m.

As of today, Bitcoins can officially be used in El Salvador. The basis is a law that the President passed in a very short time. There is protest in the country itself.

By Anne Demmer, ARD Studio Mexico City

Starting today, William Saenz can buy tomatoes, cucumbers and shampoo with Bitcoin. He can also use it to pay his taxes. He sees this as a great opportunity, he explains to the state news broadcaster Noticiero in El Salvador: “I think it’s good that the President wants to introduce Bitcoin. The currency already exists in developed countries, in Europe,” he says and is convinced: “In a year or two, that’s going to change our economy.”

Anne Demmer

First country in the world

El Salvador is the first country to introduce digital currency as a legal tender. The law for this was passed in a hurry three months ago, pushed by President Nayib Bukele himself. Luciana Ramirez is unsettled. The 30-year-old works for the government. She prefers not to give her real name, because criticism of Bitcoin is not welcome. “The law was passed too quickly. There is not enough information,” she says. “Many don’t even know how this app, which you have to use for this, works. It’s all very unsafe – especially for small businesses and companies. And when we talk about Bitcoin, we think of San Salvador, the capital. But what happens to the rural regions? “She asks. Because there is even a lack of electricity there, not to mention the Internet. Many would not understand what was in store for them. In addition, the cryptocurrency is considered unstable.

And so many feared for their savings. In the past few months, tweets from Tesla boss Elon Musk have been enough to rock the course extremely. “I keep trying to read something,” says Ramirez. “There is a kind of glossary with the technical terms that you need to use it.” But all of this is very complex: “The majority of the people in El Salvador have no access to education – I don’t even want to imagine how they are doing with it.”

The majority are skeptical

The first machines have already been installed in the capital, San Salvador. If you download the “Chivo” digital wallet, you will receive a starting credit of 30 dollars, according to President Bukele’s promise. He is promoting cryptocurrency – a means of payment that does not require a bank account.

According to a nationwide survey by the Universidad Centroamericana, almost 70 percent of Salvadorans reject the Bitcoin law. Around the same number of people had imprecise ideas about Bitcoin: only 4.8 percent of those surveyed correctly defined it as a cryptocurrency.

Critics temporarily arrested

Marco Gómez is one of the sharpest critics of the Bitcoin introduction. He had shown the press the risks involved. According to his lawyer, the Bitcoin expert was taken away by the police a few days ago without an arrest warrant. “The police said it was not an arrest. But the strange thing is that even the prosecution does not know about it,” said the lawyer.

“We have no clarity as to what he is being accused of. He was driving with his mother in the car. He was stopped and simply taken away. We do not even know which unit is dealing with the case.” Although the Bitcoin expert was released on the same day, the proceedings were not discontinued and the specific allegation remains unclear.

These days hundreds of Salvadorans have taken to the streets again and again to protest against the introduction of Bitcoin. President Bukele responded on Twitter. He posted pictures of a protest and wrote: “This is an opposition demonstration. It is very clear who we are dealing with here.”

El Salvador in Bitcoin fever – criticism undesirable

Anne Demmer, ARD Mexico City, September 7, 2021 4:47 p.m.

Hasan Sheikh
Hasan, who loves technology and games, is studying Computer Engineering at Delhi JNU. He has been writing technology news since 2016.


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