El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele has been feting the success of the country’s Chivo bitcoin (BTC) app and wallet, claiming that it has “over half a million users”, or around 8% of the country’s population. He also admitted that technical issues had blighted the launch, while detractors are claiming that Chivo has actually flopped.
In a series of Twitter posts, Bukele claimed variously that a number of technical-related problems had been “95% addressed,” adding that remaining issues would be ironed out “in the next few days.”
But he also claimed that the 200 Chivo ATMs in El Salvador and an additional 50 ATMs in the United States were currently “working perfectly.”
He pointed out that Chivo ATMs were functional in major American cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston.
However, the President conceded that there had been more than a few teething issues with the app, and hinted he may have bitten off a little more than he can chew.
“We set ourselves too big of a challenge (to launch everything in three months) and we made mistakes. But we are already correcting them and hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans can already use their Chivo wallets without any problems.”
He added that some will “have to wait” to use the Chivo wallet, but added that the delay “will be worth it,” ending with a reminder that Chivo use was “optional.”
He also added more “good news,” writing that the government would scrap its USD 5 minimum transaction limit for transfers to other wallets, stating that the new minimum would now instead be set at USD 0.01. He added that “credit and debit card top-up functionality” would be “enabled as of tomorrow [Wednesday September 15],” and teased new “benefits” as incentives to BTC-accepting merchants.
But Bukele conceded that some “user profiles” had been blocked “because they experienced registration errors.” He wrote that these users would have their profiles “deleted so that they can register again.”
Bukele also admitted that certain users had “had problems with balance transfers to bank accounts or payments,” claiming that these people “will be contacted by our technical team” once issues had been “resolved.”
He wrote that the process “will take a day or two,” adding that all “balances are guaranteed.”
Major newspapers, most of which are opposed to Bukele and his bitcoin adoption plans, carried stories of disgruntled merchants who had few positive things to say about Chivo, bitcoin or the government.
El Diario de Hoy quoted two businesses owners, speaking on condition of anonymity, who claimed that “in all the transfers that customers have made to them,” they have lost money, receiving between “USD 0.02 and USD 0.50 less than the sale price” – with one transaction seeing them “lose USD 18.01.”
A tattoo artist, meanwhile, was quoted as stating that transactions took too long to process, and called Chivo “unnecessary.” He opined that “nobody will use the Chivo wallet” after they have used up the USD 30 worth of BTC they were given by the government as an incentive to download the app.
Anonymous workers at a hair salon and a clothing outlet said they had seen instances where transactions had failed for customers using the app. In one case, the clothing outlet vendor stated, a customer attempted to pay for an item in BTC twice, with the transaction failing in both instances. Finally, the customer gave up and left empty-handed, the vendor said.
The same media outlet also featured criticism from a globe-trotting American YouTuber named Marc Falzon, who claimed in a video interview with the newspaper that Chivo had experienced “less of a launch, and more of a collapse.”
The YouTuber also complained that the government was apparently attempting to introduce elements of centralization to BTC by using solutions like the Chivo app.
Falzon claimed that “many of the ATMs are empty,” adding that one of his team members “went to an ATM to withdraw funds that I had transferred him” and “had to wait more than an hour.”
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