El Salvador Congress backs $150 mln fund for bitcoin ahead of adoption

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REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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SAN SALVADOR, Aug 31 (Reuters) - El Salvador's Congress on Tuesday approved a law to create a $150 million fund to facilitate conversions from bitcoin to U.S. dollars ahead of the Central American country's planned adoption of the cryptocurrency as legal tender next week.

With 64 votes in favor and 14 votes against, Congress approved the fund as El Salvador, which already uses the U.S. dollar, prepares to officially adopt bitcoin on Sept. 7.

The Central American country will be the first in the world to use the cryptocurrency as legal tender.

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Money for the new fund will redirected from the finance ministry's current budget and administered by the state development bank of El Salvador (BANDESAL), lawmakers said.

"The purpose of this law is to financially support the alternatives that the state provides, without prejudice to private initiatives, that allow the user to carry out the automatic and instantaneous convertibility of bitcoin to the United States dollar," a congressional document said.

At least 200 ATMs and 50 consulting centers from the government digital wallet app "Chivo" are being installed in different parts of the country where users can deposit and withdraw money without paying commissions, according to President Nayib Bukele, who announced the initiative in June.

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Reporting by Nelson Renteria, writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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