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Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gillyberlin/

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gillyberlin/

The first public bitcoin ATM in Argentina opened recently in a Buenos Aires suburb. Given that bitcoin ATMs have been popping up like wildflowers all over the globe in the last few months, this might not seem like big news. In a country in the middle of a deep economic crisis and an estimated inflation rate of 30%, however, the appearance of an easy means of buying a global currency like bitcoin may offer many citizens a much-needed economic back-up plan.

The PanAm Post reports that Antidomingo, a restaurant and music venue in Pinto (just outside of Buenos Aires), launched the machine to “brand itself as a haven for those who want to get their dose of bitcoins.” The ATM itself has limited, one-way functionality allowing users to buy bitcoin, but not withdraw pesos. With the value of Argentina’s currency increasingly on the decline, and access to a more stable currency like the U.S. dollar severely limited by the government, the ATM may provide some peace of mind to customers.

Argentina has frequently been presented as an ideal test bed for bitcoin adoption, even as bitcoin itself experiences significant price volatility. The situation is bad enough that the South American country defaulted on a $1.5 billion debt in July, and has implemented a variety of currency controls, including price controls on consumer goods and limited access to the official, fixed-rate currency exchange. By using bitcoin, the theory goes, citizens can opt-out of using both Argentine pesos and the frequently hoarded reserve currency of the U.S. dollar, paying for everyday needs with their mobile phones.

Even with significant motivation, however, excitement about the bitcoin ATM has been cool. ATM owner Daniel Alós told the PanAm Post that “not many clients are motivated to use it.” He noted that the machine has become a conversation piece, but that many “pass by without even recognizing what it is. For them, the ATM could be a contraceptive dispenser.”

Bitcoin has gained some ground in Argentina, with a network of over 8,000 convenience stores in the country allowing small BTC purchases via BitPagos’ Ripio system.

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