Funds confiscated from the Nicolás Maduro regime in the United States that belong to the Venezuelan people are being used to pay a bonus to health workers in Venezuela, in a program designed by the team of Interim President Juan Guaidó.
According to National Assembly (AN, in Spanish) lawmaker Manuela Bolívar, who heads the group executing this program, the final list of beneficiaries amounts to 62,697 people, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, as well as workers and administrative personnel of public health centers.
She explained that starting on September 14, beneficiaries began receiving notifications about the first of three payments of $100 each to their accounts. The two remaining payments will be made in October and November.
The funds for this program come from an account that the Venezuelan Central Bank had at Citibank, which the U.S. government froze following sanctions imposed on the Maduro regime, said Miguel Pizarro, an exiled lawmaker who serves as Guaidó’s commissioner for humanitarian assistance.
Pizarro said that authorities confiscated $325 million and made $80 million available, with the approval of the AN and the U.S. Federal Reserve. The commissioner said that part of this $80 million was delivered to the International Red Cross and the Pan American Health Organization to send humanitarian assistance to Venezuela.
On September 15, Margot Monasterios received a message that relieved her. She got an email confirming her first remittance of $100.
“This is a very positive measure to cover, for example, our transportation,” she said.
Monasterios is a nurse. She lives in a small town near Barlovento, more than 100 kilometers east of the capital, and each day takes public transportation to get to the hospital at Caracas University Campus. She said that she spends about $3.30 every month just to come and go.
“One has several needs […]. This bonus is a benefit, not a gift. This was hard-earned [money],” she said.
According to the Venezuelan Medical Federation president, Douglas León Natera, a professional nurse like Monasterios is likely to earn the equivalent of only $5 per month, in the best case scenario. As a result, transportation is an expense that exceeds 60 percent of the salary.
Resource scarcity in Venezuelan public hospitals and dispensaries has caused more than 170 health workers to die of COVID-19 as of mid-September. Of these, León Natera said, 100 were doctors.
In the third week of September, Guaidó’s group was evaluating whether to extend this bonus to health workers beyond November, or if it will try to reach other public workers.