El Salvador Will Not Require Bitcoin Acceptance, President Bukele Confirms

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele confirmed that the use of bitcoin as legal tender will not be mandatory, in a Twitter thread on Monday. 

Echoing El Salvador’s finance minister, Alejandro Zelaya, who said the same thing last week, Bukele said the government would not force any of the nation’s residents to receive bitcoin as a form of payment.

“If someone wants to continue to carry cash, not receive a sign-on bonus, not win over customers who have bitcoin, not grow their business and pay commission on remittances, they can continue to do so,” Bukele wrote. 

Bukele did not refer to Article 7 of the Bitcoin Law, which stipulates that all economic agents must accept bitcoin as a form of payment when offered by the person acquiring goods or services.

Ernesto Sanabria, a spokesman for Bukele, told CoinDesk that “the president has been clear in saying that the use of bitcoin is not mandatory.” 

Asked about a possible change to Article 7, Sanabria said he had already addressed the issue in his response. He did not specify whether the article will be eliminated or otherwise modified. 

On digital wallets to use bitcoin, Bukele said El Salvador residents “will be able to accept payments in bitcoin or in dollars, open a small business and manage it from there, receive money from family or friends and send and receive remittances without paying a single cent of commission to anyone.”

“If they want to. If they don’t, just don’t download anything and that’s it,” he wrote.  

If bitcoin is received, it can be converted into U.S. dollars, left in a digital wallet or converted into cash at one of the 200 ATMs that will be available in the country, Bukele said, adding that “there will also be 50 branches to withdraw or deposit money.”

On the use of bitcoin for remittances, Bukele wrote that Salvadorans abroad will be able to send money instantly to family members living in the country. “You can send bitcoin (if you want) or you can send dollars, if you want.” 

“If you don’t want to, you can always go to Western Union and pay a commission. No problem at all,” Bukele said. 

Zelaya said last Tuesday that the use of bitcoin and digital wallets in El Salvador will be “totally optional,” and businesses that do not accept the cryptocurrency will not be penalized. 

Asked whether it was necessary to eliminate Article 7 from the Bitcoin Law, Zelaya asked why and did not expand on the subject.