Less than 2% of transfers made to El Salvador use the Chivo Bitcoin (BTC) app and state-run wallet — and bitcoin ATM kiosks in the country are “empty” less than a year after its launch, according to a new report. Popular with many citizens .
El Diario de Hoy, one of El Salvador’s leading newspapers, reported that “few Salvadorans use the Chivo app and ATMs to receive remittances.”
The media is generally opposed to President Najib Bukele’s government and his Bitcoin adoption plans. It cited data from the Central Reserve Bank showing that between September 2021 and June 2022, $120.46 million entered the country via cryptocurrency wallets. That represented just 1.8% of the total $6.4 billion in remittances sent into the country — mostly from Salvadorans living abroad — in the same period.
The numbers also show that $29.68 million in BTC was transferred via cryptocurrency wallets in October 2021 – one month after Bitcoin was adopted as legal tender in El Salvador. But since then, senders haven’t transferred more than $20 million a month. In some months, that number dropped to about $10 million.
But while the media outlet seemed keen to paint a picture of the rapid decline in BTC transfers, one month’s data emerged: In May of this year, $15.6 million worth of BTC was transferred to El Salvador from abroad, a significant increase from the previous month. The outlet noted that transfers are often higher than usual in May, the month that falls on Mother’s Day.
But, optimists might claim, this still indicates that a small but significant minority of people are already choosing BTC as a transfer tool just ten months after the launch of Chivo and the BTC Adoption Act.
The data was released to the EFE news agency, which says the central bank refused to tell it whether the numbers represented only BTC sent via Chivo, or if they also included data from other BTC wallets.
The agency claimed that such information was “placed in secrecy”.
Meanwhile, El Diario de Hoy claimed that “in the middle” of the capital, San Salvador, most Chivo ATM booths appear empty, with “a few Salvadorans” attending to ask staff how to use the machines.
The media added that others appeared to be unwilling to “transact” using the app.
The same newspaper claimed that several companies in downtown San Salvador had removed the “accept bitcoin” signs they put in place just a few months ago.
But those eager to write a Salvadoran obituary for Bitcoin might be a bit happy.
Last week, social media was filled with news of how Chivo booths were being “disassembled”, after circulating photos and videos of what appeared to be workers taking up a booth in San Salvador.
However, this turned out to be a false alarm: the kiosk was simply moved a few meters away and now appears to be fully operational again.
Regardless, there are signs that the application has not been as successful as the government initially hoped. The technical team behind the app was changed earlier this year, and its social media accounts are largely inactive.
Finance Minister Alejandro Zelaya responded by claiming that Salvadorans “continue to use” both Bitcoin and Chivo.
Zelaya also denied dismantling any Chivo booths, but claimed that there are “still many steps to be taken” on the BTC adoption journey in El Salvador.
In April, the US National Bureau of Economic Research published a survey showing that 20% of Salvadorans continue to use Chivo Wallet.