The government of El Salvador is taking its Chivo bitcoin ATMs to the US, as part of its plan to make remittances back to the country easier and cheaper. It has set up ATMs in 10 US cities where local legislation allows them to operate.
In a series of tweets, El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, said that the 50 special cash machines, knowns as Chivos, have been installed in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago.
As part of the plans that made El Salvador the first country in the world to make Bitcoin legal tender, its citizens are able to create a Chivo wallet account by using their national ID number. Once registered, citizens can use the ATMs to make withdrawals, recharge the accounts or use the wallet app to make payments and transfer Bitcoin or dollars to friends and family.
It is estimated that over 2 million people of Salvadoran origin live in the US, responsible for most of the remittances to the country, estimated to represent more than 20% of El Salvador’s GDP.
"According to President Bukele, the use of bitcoin as legal tender will help Salvadorans reduce what he estimated to be the US$ 400 million they spend on fees and commissions every year to send money to the country."
In his tweets, Bukele acknowledged that the rollout of the Chivo wallet earlier this month was not without problems, as it went offline for a time due to technical glitches. He claimed that the government has solved 95% of the problems, which included issues with blocked accounts and bank transfers.
The move by controversial President Bukele to adopt bitcoin as legal tender is not without opposition in El Salvador, with thousands going to the streets a few days ago to demand clearer separation between the republic’s powers and to protest again his Bitcoin project.