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El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele said in a national address on Thursday that a recently passed law making bitcoin legal tender will take effect on September 7, noting that its use will be optional.

El Salvador's Congress on June 9 approved Bukele's proposal to embrace the cryptocurrency, making El Salvador the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender.

"The use of bitcoin will be optional, nobody will receive bitcoin if they don't want it... If someone receives a payment in bitcoin they can choose to automatically receive it in dollars," said Bukele.

Salaries and pensions will continue to be paid in U.S. dollars, said Bukele, without specifying if that included salaries paid to state workers and private sector employees.

Athena Bitcoin plans to invest over $1 million to install cryptocurrency ATMs

Earlier in the day Athena Bitcoin said it plans to invest over $1 million to install some 1,500 cryptocurrency ATMs in El Salvador, especially where residents receive remittances from abroad.

According to Athena Bitcoin's website, the ATMs can be used to buy bitcoins or sell them for cash.

The firm expects to gradually install some 1,500 ATMs, hire staff and open an office to carry out operations in El Salvador, which in June became the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. The move takes effect in September.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele "presented us with a tough challenge of 1,500 ATMs, we will go for that, but in phases. We are a private company and we want to ensure that our development in the country is sustainable," said the firm's director for Latin America Matias Goldenhörn.

Bukele has touted the cryptocurrency's potential as a remittance currency for Salvadorans overseas.

"Initially we are going to bring dozens of machines, (we'll) test what the business model is like in El Salvador, which will probably be different than in the United States," Goldenhörn added.

A year ago Athena installed its first cryptocurrency ATM in El Salvador's El Zonte beach, some 49 km (30 mi) southwest of capital San Salvador, as part of an experiment called Bitcoin Beach aimed at making the town one of the world's first bitcoin economies.

The World Bank has said it cannot assist El Salvador's bitcoin implementation given environmental and transparency drawbacks, and the International Monetary Fund has said it saw "macroeconomic, financial and legal issues" with the country's adoption of the cryptocurrency.

(With inputs from agencies)


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