El Salvador has become the first country in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, the country's President Nayib Bukele has announced.
"The #BitcoinLaw has just been approved by a qualified majority" in the legislative assembly, Bukele tweeted after the vote late Tuesday.
"History!" the president added.
He said a majority of 62 out of 84 lawmakers approved the bill, which he proposed last week.
The law passed with the support of Bukele's allies despite minority opposition parties – who had criticized the speed of the vote – refusing to back it.
Cryptocurrencies have soared in popularity due to their use as a store of value, the relative anonymity they offer to users, and wild price fluctuations that present opportunities for greater profits than investing on regular global stock exchanges.
The volatility of Bitcoin – currently priced at $33,814 – and its murky legal status has raised questions about whether it could ever replace traditional currency in day-to-day transactions.
But El Salvador – a small nation where four out of 10 people live in poverty – has turned to the top crypto asset that has been backed by billionaires including Elon Musk and large financial companies such as PayPal in a bid to boost its remittance-reliant economy.
El Salvador's main currency is the United States dollar and it remains unclear how the country plans to implement Bitcoin as a functioning currency.
Yet the Salvadoran leader has hailed the virtual currency as "the fastest-growing way to transfer" billions of dollars in remittances and to prevent millions from being lost to intermediaries.
Remittances from Salvadorans working overseas represent a major chunk of the economy – equivalent to roughly 22% of gross domestic product (GDP).
In 2020, remittances to the country totaled $5.9 billion, according to official reports.
Before the vote, Bukele said adopting the cryptocurrency would bring "financial inclusion, investment, tourism, innovation and economic development," to the country.
"This is a law that will put El Salvador on the world's radar, we will be more attractive for foreign investment," Romeo Auerbach, a deputy of the Grand Alliance for the National Unity party, an ally of Bukele, said.
The cryptocurrency market grew to more than $2.5 trillion by the middle of last month, according to the Coinmarketcap website, driven by interest from increasingly serious investors from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.
Between the beginning of 2020 and a peak in mid-April of $64,870, the price of Bitcoin gained nearly 800%.
But since then, the cryptocurrency has fallen in value by more than 50%.
Its price has fallen sharply toward a symbolic $30,000 threshold it has not crossed since January, dragging other cryptocurrencies in its wake.
After Tuesday's vote, the price jumped more than 5%.
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