(Bloomberg) — El Salvador President Nayib Bukele took the stage last year to fireworks and AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All night Long,” announcing to a cheering crowd of crypto enthusiasts at a beachside confab that Bitcoin would revolutionize his country. It was November, the digital token had just notched new all-time highs and El Salvador was at the very beginning of its experiment as the world’s first nation to use the cryptocurrency as legal tender.
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Now, a year into the journey, there are far fewer fireworks. Adoption has moved slowly, and steep declines in Bitcoin’s price from those lofty levels last fall have dampened the early euphoria that swept across the nation. Bitcoin hasn’t replaced El Salvador’s hard currency, the U.S. dollar — it’s not even close — but it also hasn’t brought the financial ruin that some warned of either. Or not yet anyway.
“No one really talks about Bitcoin here anymore. It’s kind of been forgotten,” said former El Salvador central bank chief Carlos Acevedo. “I don’t know if you’d call that a failure, but it certainly hasn’t been a success.”
Bukele captivated the world last year when he made Bitcoin an official currency alongside the dollar, stirring a craze in the cryptocurrency community while also drawing criticism from skeptics, including bond traders and the International Monetary Fund. Bitcoin’s Sept. 7 debut was beset with technical glitches, making for an inauspicious beginning. Undaunted, Bukele — sporting “laser eyes” on his Twitter profile picture — barked back at detractors while welcoming Bitcoin backers and crypto executives to his presidential office, where he continues to host them to this day.
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As part of the rollout, Salvadorans were offered government-issued digital wallets preloaded with $30 worth of Bitcoin to help kick things off. Under the law, taxes can be paid in Bitcoin and businesses should accept it as a form of payment, unless they are technologically unable to do so. But the coin’s volatility has spooked users,…