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Bitcoin Nation? El Salvador is first to make it Legal Tender

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El Salvador has officially legalized bitcoin as legal tender (alongside the U.S. dollar which is the country’s current national currency) starting today; September 7, 2021.

The day before the big day, President Nayib Bukele announced El Salvador had purchased 200 Bitcoins and later in the day confirmed that “we now hold 400 bitcoins”.  Given the current market prices, the country’s recent bitcoin purchases amount to roughly $20.8 million.  

In June this year, El Salvador’s Congress voted 62 out of 84 votes to establish the crypto coin as legal tender. This will make the small country is Central America the first in the world to recognize bitcoin as an official form of currency.

In a subsequent tweet Bukele’s translated tweet said 

Like all innovation, the process of #Bitcoin in El Salvador it has a learning curve. Every road to the future is like this and not everything will be achieved in a day, or in a month.

 But we must break the paradigms of the past. El Salvador has the right to advance towards the first world.

-President of El Salvador – Nayib Bukele

Bitcoin climbed nearly 2% to more than $52,680 as of Sept 6, and according to a market analyst with Reuters the cryptocurrency is on track to reach $56,000.

Salvadorians will now have the ability to use the digital coin in exchange for goods and services, and as an accepted form of tax payments by the government. Bitcoin is actually the second legal tender in El Salvador, with the US Dollar also having that status since 2001.

Upon its adoption, users who register with the country’s government supported Bitcoin wallet called Chivo will be awarded with $30 worth of currency pre-loaded (must have a Salvadorian national ID number). 

The overall impetus for legalizing bitcoin officially is, according to experts, that savings that will be possible for citizens to receive remittances – transfers, until now in US dollars, without intermediaries and the large fees they charge for international transfers.

Remittances account for more than 20% of GDP for El Salvador – mainly in the form of dollars sent by the approximately 1.5 million ex-patriots living abroad and wiring payments to families in El Salvador.

Western Union, for example, handles these transactions and charges a hefty fee. And those fees would represent a percentage (for small remittances up to 10%) of $5.9 Billion per year that flows into the small country from abroad, mostly from the United Stated, according to World Bank data.

Although there has been a lot of political rhetoric and expressions of opinion against the move, such an obvious adversary as the international wire transfer interests, like Western Union, and the large income from fees that may begin to dry up starting today, could easily explain at least a portion of the well represented opposition opinion.

That being said, the now famous price swings of Bitcoin do represent a real risk for people hoping to transfer directly into the country. Another risk is losing the coin due to lack of experience handling a digital currency, by people who are more likely to know the feel of paper dollars than digital screens, cryptocurrency exchanges and virtual wallets.

For observers, both crypto adherents and detractors, this is a very important opportunity to see what kinds of practical obstacles will arise and what benefits are realized by the El Salvadoran people.

It is also a kind of warning to those in governments, including in the U.S., that hope to stop Bitcoin’s seemingly inexorable rise, and to prevent what they perceive as threats to the public, and perhaps, to the U.S. dollar’s previously unchallenged hegemony.

The news that 400 Bitcoins were purchased by El Salvador was, naturally seen as a positive by the Bitcoin trading community, and there has been speculation of further pricing strength likely continuing going forward.

On the utopian dream side, various experiments have recently been announced related to Bitcoin and crypto. For example, in El Salvador there are emerging plans to make Bitcoin mining a state run operation with power being supplied by geothermal energy drawn from the country’s volcanos. How’s that for cheap, renewable resources?

A town in the U.S., fittingly called Cool Valley, MO has a mayor who recently announced that the city government is considering making payments to all residents of 1000 in Bitcoin. In this case, the idea behind the plan is to give citizens a crypto nest-egg, and the holders would be barred from selling, with the hope that, in the event the currency continues its exponential climb, the residents would benefit from holding it as an appreciating capital asset.

Which leads to the observation that, over the last few years, a fog of confusion appears to hang above the media regarding coverage of cryptocurrencies.

Price speculation is off the charts and there’s a kind of mania afoot. But the biggest confusion seems to come from one simple truth, that the U.S. dollar has gone only in one direction for more than 100 years, since the Federal Reserve was established in December 1913, down.

Against any measure of buying power for goods and services the dollar is continuously worth less, far less, on a yearly basis.

Although many headlines scream “Crypto and Bitcoin are Worthless” the same could be said of the U.S. dollar, in relative terms, against a basket of goods and services which is the traditional measure of “inflation” and against other assets, for example, now that Bitcoin provides a second measuring tool, dollars are worth less over time against bitcoin.

With prominent people and companies around the world and in the U.S. already supporting the idea of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies with their dollars and by choosing to hold crypto, it will be very interesting to see what transpires as these “currency wars” mutate and expand around the globe.

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