el zonte, el salvador (reuters) – a growing number of salvadorans have experimented with bitcoin since the country became the first to adopt it as legal tender last month, with a couple of million dollars sent daily by migrants who use cryptocurrency.
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But only a fraction of businesses in the Central American nation have accepted a bitcoin payment, and technical problems have plagued the government’s cryptocurrency app, frustrating even committed users of the technology.
Construction worker Adalberto Galvez, 32, said he had lost $220 when trying to withdraw cash from the Chivo digital wallet.
Like Gálvez, dozens of Salvadorans told Reuters they had at least one problem with the goat, named for the local word for “good,” and few had used it on a daily basis.
“He took my money but gave me nothing,” said Galvez, who had already been using bitcoin successfully for months with another application in a small-scale bitcoin economy pilot project called bitcoin beach in the coastal city of the zonte.
Gálvez said the funds had been taken from his bitcoin beach wallet but he was never able to withdraw the cash via chivo. he said that he had not received a response after filing the complaints.
Others have also reported irregularities with transactions and attempted identity theft. President Nayib Bukele has blamed high demand for problems Galvez and others have faced.
A spokesman for the president’s office could not be reached for comment.
By some measures, adoption in the poor country, where a fifth of families depend on remittances, has been rapid.
bukele has said that three million people have downloaded goat, some 500,000 more than initially planned and approximately half of the country’s population. in September he said the wallet had 2.1 million active users.
A month after its launch, 12% of consumers have used the cryptocurrency, reported the Salvadoran foundation for economic and social development.
“Since yesterday, Salvadorans are putting in more cash (to buy #bitcoin) than they are taking out of @chivowallet ATMs,” Bukele tweeted on Wednesday. “This is very surprising so early in the game.”
But the foundation, which surveyed 233 businesses across different sectors, found that overall usage was still low, with 93% of businesses reporting no bitcoin payments.
“We’re still not sure what benefits the government expected,” said Leonor Selva, of the national association of private companies, one of several business groups skeptical about the launch.
Bukele’s government hopes that 2.5 million Salvadorans living in the United States will eventually send remittances through Chivo.
So far, 30 bitcoin ATMs have been installed to send remittances in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles, and Bukele says about $2 million is sent through Chivo daily.
juan moz, a construction worker who has lived in the united states since 2005, recently chose goat to send remittances to his family, a decision he said saves him up to $18 compared to traditional money transfer services.
“I’m definitely going to keep using it,” he said in a phone interview from San Francisco.
however, the majority of el salvador’s $6bn annual remittances, roughly a quarter of the nation’s gross domestic product, still come from money transfers, and many are wary of cryptocurrency’s volatility .
last month, el salvador bought 700 bitcoins. prices initially fell sharply after September. 7, but rose in late September to hit around $54,000 per coin this week.
Several people told Reuters they downloaded the wallet and received a $30 bonus the government offered at the start of the program.
The brochure was big enough to benefit some small business owners like Alexander Diaz, whose restaurant serving chicken wings saw a surge in business.
“Most of the people who had that bonus wanted to test how it could be spent, so a number of customers made payments to us with bitcoin,” Diaz said, adding that around 20% of his customers now use the cryptocurrency.
“Chivo has benefited small entrepreneurs because it facilitates the payment method for customers,” said Díaz.