SAN SALVADOR (Dispatches) - Angry protests, technological glitches and a plummet in value marked the first day of El Salvador adopting Bitcoin as legal tender.
The price of Bitcoin crashed to its lowest in nearly a month, falling from $52,000 to under $43,000 at one point.
An opposition politician said the fall caused one of Latin America’s poorest countries to lose $3m.
The rollout of bitcoin in El Salvador was far from what President Nayib Bukele would have envisaged when he began his bold experiment.
Platforms such as Apple and Huawei weren’t offering the government-backed digital wallet, known as Chivo, and servers had to be pulled offline after they couldn’t keep up with user registrations.
The government has even given Salvadorans $30 each of Bitcoin to encourage its adoption. It says bitcoin could save the country $400mn a year in transaction fees on funds sent from abroad.
However, using data from the World Bank and the government, the BBC calculates this to be closer to $170mn.
“We must break the paradigms of the past,” President Bukele tweeted. “El Salvador has the right to advance towards the first world.”
Ed Hernandez runs a family shop in San Salvador where customers buy essentials like rice, beans and cleaning products. He’s well and truly on board.
“During the pandemic, it will be nice not to use physical cash,” he told the BBC, adding that it protects him from customers paying with counterfeit notes.
What wasn’t good timing for El Salvador though was the tumble Bitcoin took on its first day as legal tender, falling 20% at one point.