Karen Hernández sells cell phone accessories in San Salvador to customers who often pay in bitcoin. He assures that it has brought him many benefits and he does not want them to remove the cryptocurrency as the IMF claims, but not everyone is so enthusiastic in El Salvador.

"It has been a very, very nice experience and (the use of bitcoin) has increased us (sales), it has taken us to another level of commerce"Hernandez, 45, told AFP.

With a cheerful countenance, Hernández owns a small cell phone store in the historic center of San Salvador, where hand-made stickers and signs advertise: "we accept bitcoin" by using the Chivo wallet.

The Chivo wallet is the government’s digital wallet created for bitcoin transactions that has legal tender since September 7, 2021.

"Education" for bitcoin.
Every day thousands of Salvadorans circulate on foot in the crowded streets of the capital, where restaurants, hardware stores, pharmacies and even many informal businesses advertise that they accept payments in cryptocurrency.

Located in an old building in the capital is Elizabeth Arévalo, 25, who works as a clerk in a computer supply store and has to "teach him" customers how to use the Chivo wallet so they can shop at your business.

"We give clients a little guidance on how to use the (Chivo) wallet (…). When they already learn how to use it, they buy from us. Here it is a matter of win-win. We teach them to use the wallet and they buy"Arevalo explained to AFP.

In the center of San Salvador there are two Chivo ATMs guarded by police officersand mid-morning there are few users who come to carry out a transaction or to consult one of the Chivo Wallet advisors who remain in the place.

But many are not satisfied, like Antonio Molina, who assures that he does not accept payments in bitcoin in his street sale of bananas.

"I don’t care if they remove bitcoin or not, for me that’s no benefit, I only work with the dollar, bitcoin I don’t accept"Molina said.

In El Salvador, bitcoin circulates alongside the US dollar, the official currency for two decades.

big risks
On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged El Salvador to withdraw bitcoin as legal tender, pointing out "great risks associated" to the use of cryptocurrency, a blow to President Nayib Bukele, its enthusiastic promoter.

The IMF executive board urged the Salvadoran government to officially stop using bitcoin, citing dangers to "financial stability, financial integrity and consumer protection, as well as possible tax contingencies".

For merchants like Arévalo, there is no idea that bitcoin will no longer be legal tender.

"Sales have increased since we accepted bitcoin, and at least here in the business we do not agree that the use of bitcoin be removed, we are already used to using it and it is a payment option"Arevalo said.

Running from one place to another in his business selling technology products and perfumes in the center of the capital, Juan Carlos Pérez, 40, says that he personally uses bitcoin and that he is "according" with cryptocurrency.

"There are risks, I know there may be (…) vulnerability in the exchange, (there is not) a financial market that is controlling (bitcoin). but it is practical"Pérez commented, while checking the Chivo wallet application on his phone.

Fragility
The Salvadoran government discusses an agreement for US$1,300 million with the IMFto clean up their coffers.

"The logical thing would be for the government of El Salvador to understand the fragility of its situation and that everything ultimately goes through that agreement with the IMF"warned the economist Luis Membreño.

This year, according to Membreño, the government expects to obtain US$400 million from the World Bank, US$400 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and US$200 million from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI).

all those loans "are subject" to the US$1.3 billion agreement that the government is seeking with the IMF, warns Membreño.

On Tuesday, the IMF executive board acknowledged that digital means of payment can contribute to the bankarization of El Salvador, but called on the government to control them.

Bukele reacts with a meme
That same night, Bukele reacted with a "meme" of the Simpsons to the IMF recommendation that ironizes: "I see you IMF. That’s very nice" (I see you, IMF. How nice).

During his administration, 1,630 bitcoins have been acquired with public funds. Membreño warned that Bukele "he is not going to back down with a personal project of that magnitude".

His finance minister, Alejandro Zelaya, limited himself to highlighting on Twitter the part of the IMF statement that emphasizes the importance of promoting financial inclusion.

"It seems to work to provide financial inclusion, but you shouldn’t. The future waits for no one, #Bitcoin"Zelaya wrote.

Last year Bukele also announced the issuance of "bitcoin bonds" for 1,000 million dollars.

Bitcoin was trading at around US$37,000 on Thursday, compared to a record high of US$67,734 hit in November.

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