- El Salvador’s president has said 2.1 million people in the country are actively using the bitcoin wallet Chivo.
- Nayib Bukele said the wallet now has more users than any single bank in El Salvador.
- Yet the figures suggests a mixed response to bitcoin becoming legal tender in the country.
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El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has said a third of the country’s population is actively using the Chivo cryptocurrency wallet, after the government made bitcoin legal tender earlier this month.
Bukele tweeted at the weekend that 2.1 million Salvadorans were actively using the wallet. “Chivo is not a bank, but in less than 3 weeks, it now has more users than any bank in El Salvador and is moving fast to have more users that [sic] ALL BANKS IN EL SALVADOR combined,” he said. “This is wild!”
The claim from Bukele is the latest insight into how El Salvador’s controversial adoption of bitcoin is panning out.
El Salvador officially launched bitcoin as legal tender on September 7, meaning businesses have to accept it as payment, but the rollout was far from smooth.
The decision was criticized by the International Monetary Fund and met with street protests by some Salvadorans. On the day of the launch, bitcoin fell sharply after the government had to take the Chivo wallet offline due to capacity problems.
Chivo is a crypto wallet that lets people and businesses send and receive bitcoin and is available as an app on Apple and Android phones. The government preloaded $US30 ($AU41) of bitcoin onto Salvadorans’ accounts, which they could access by downloading Chivo.
The regular use of the wallet by 2.1 million people, according to Bukele’s figures, suggests a mixed response from the country’s population. It suggests two-thirds of the country have little interest in using bitcoin.
Bukele – who many see as an authoritarian leader – has argued bitcoin becoming legal tender will give people easier access to financial services and reduce remittance costs for Salvadorans abroad.
JPMorgan has called El Salvador’s move an “ill-conceived experiment.” The bank said crypto assets are very volatile and so prices in shops are likely to fluctuate wildly.