Families wary as El Salvador adopts bitcoin

Salvadoran tailor Julio Ramirez receives small wire transfers from his two daughters in the United States to get by.

Like many Salvadorans, that transaction costs a premium of a few dollars.

But after Tuesday they'll have a new option, when El Salvador becomes first country in the world to accept bitcoin as legal tender.

Proponents like President Nayib Bukele say it will save Salvadorans living abroad millions of dollars in transfer charges if they instead use bitcoin to send their money home.

But Bukele still needs to convince people like Ramirez the tailor.

He and his family see bitcoin as volatile and risky.

"My daughters don't trust bitcoin over there in the U.S. They've told me they aren't going to use it even if they need to pay an extra $10 or $15 to send $100, they aren't going to do it because they don't feel comfortable either."

Over 2.5 million Salvadorans live abroad - mostly in the U.S.

They send back around $6 billion a year.

That's equivalent to about a quarter country's GDP, but another $400 million is spent on commissions to send that money home.

President Nayib Bukele has said any Salvadoran can download a government digital wallet called "CHIVO", a local word meaning "good" to accept payments in bitcoin or dollars.

He argues the cryptocurrency will make Salvadorans better off but also stresses that using it is optional.

Government worker Guadalupe Torres has tried to allay fears that bitcoin is just one choice.

"According to all the interviews and statements the president has given he says that bitcoin isn't a mandatory currency. Its use is optional and we hope that will still be the case."

A 2015 Central Bank study showed that over one-fifth of Salvadoran households rely on remittances to get by, and the government is doubling down on the bitcoin strategy.

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