What you need to know about El Salvador’s plan to use volcano-powered bitcoin as legal tender

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele speaks during a news conference in San Salvador last week. (Jose Cabezas/Reuters)

When El Salvador voted this week to make bitcoin legal tender, it marked the start of an experiment sure to draw close attention amid a global surge in interest in cryptocurrency.

Nayib Bukele, the Latin American nation’s meme-loving millennial leader, claims that embracing the cryptocurrency “will generate jobs and help provide financial inclusion to thousands outside the formal economy.” Remittances from citizens living abroad make up about a fifth of El Salvador’s gross domestic product, according to World Bank figures, and Bukele believes that bitcoin has the potential to transform the way that money is sent across borders.

But critics suspect that the move is a publicity stunt intended to distract from what they see as Bukele’s authoritarian tendencies, including his party’s ouster of El Salvador’s attorney general and several top judges.

The new law has also raised numerous questions about how goods and services will be priced, and the environmental ramifications of bitcoin mining. Here’s what we know so far.

El Salvador’s president wants to make country world’s first to use bitcoin as legal tender