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Brazilian Firm Unveils First Bitcoin ATM in South America

By: Sofía Ramírez Fionda - Jan 21, 2014, 5:33 pm

EspañolNext week, South America will get its first Bitcoin ATM, during the Campus Party 2014 festival. The event, a technology festival and party, will take place from January 27 to February 2 in São Paulo, Brazil.

Mercado Bitcoin — a market exchange where bitcoins can be bought and sold for Brazilian currency — is the organization responsible for the idea. The Campus Party coordinators expect 100,000 attendees to encounter the digital currency for the first time.

Mercado Bitcoin imported the ATM, a Lamasso, at a cost of US$10,000, or 11.5 Btc. The organization’s chief executive, Rodrigo Batista, said the ATM will be available somewhere in São Paulo’s financial center after the event.

The ATM will allow people to convert money into bitcoin and then save it in their bitcoin wallet. The transactions will have a 2.5 percent fee — just as users pay on Mercado Bitcoin’s website — and will allow transfers of up to R$100 (almost US$43).

Bitcoin: Experiencing Its Fastest Growth Since Creation

Released to the world in 2009, the current market value of all bitcoins in circulation is nearly US$12.3 billion, according to BlockChain.info. The value of a single bitcoin peaked at $1137 on November 29, 2013 – while a year before that they costed just $13.

This increase in its market value, even if now that value has dipped, stems from booming interest in the digital currency. Bitcoin is a medium of exchange with no central authority and no flexible supply. On the contrary, only 21 million bitcoins will ever be created and in circulation.

A range of establishments throughout the world already accept bitcoins, as listed on Coinmap. In America, fully functioning ATMs work in Vancouver and Toronto, and two other ATMs will be installed in the next few weeks in Canada — Ottawa and Montreal. That is despite an announcement last week from Canada’s central bank that the currency is not recognized as legal tender.

Bitcoin’s Rise in Latin America

On January 8, California Cantina in Santiago became the first restaurant in Chile, and the first nightclub in all of Latin America, to accept bitcoins. Adam Stradling, founder at Coin4ce.com — a company supporting customers in Chile and Mexico — notes that the Bitcoin ecosystem in Latin America is currently lagging behind the United States.

While there are now thousands of merchants accepting bitcoins in the United States, only a few dozen do so in South America. In this regard, Franco Amati, co-founder of Bitcoin Argentina considers the utility of the virtual currency in the region: “In general, Latin America historically suffered banking, monetary, and bureaucracy problems; that is why decentralized solutions such as Bitcoin can be especially helpful in the region.”

Regarding installing bitcoin ATMs, Amati believes that this development will “help with these issues, enabling an invisible and simpler crypto-currency process, along with providing more liquidity to the [bitcoin] ecosystem.”

As Joel Fensch has also noted on Insight Sur, the Bitcoin network must improve its infrastructure and education in order to have further acceptance in Latin America. He still believes, though, that it is an emerging technology with extraordinary potential to lower the cost of the remittances and protect citizens against erratic monetary policies.

Sofía Ramírez Fionda Sofía Ramírez Fionda

Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ramírez Fionda is a former Spanish-language editor and journalist with the PanAm Post. She holds degrees in political science and international relations, and you can follow her on Twitter @SofiFionda.