Venezuela health workers get first payment from funds frozen in U.S., Guaido says

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido takes part in a news conference after Venezuela's pro-government supreme court replaced the leaders of two key opposition parties, months ahead of legislative elections in Caracas, Venezuela June 17, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan health workers have started receiving $100 monthly payments financed by funds that the United States seized from the government of President Nicolas Maduro, opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Saturday.

The U.S. Treasury Department in August approved the use of the funds to help Venezuela’s health personnel on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 amid a hyperinflationary economic crisis.

“Men and women who earned between $6 and $8 per month now have an account,” Guaido said in a social media broadcast, adding that some 3,000 workers doctors and nurses have received the money.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Guaido, who is recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president, announced the plan in May but could not move forward without authorization from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.

The United States disavowed Maduro last year and seized funds that Venezuela’s government had held in U.S. accounts.

Guaido’s press team said the first recipients are health workers in regions hardest hit by COVID-19. The program is expected to reach some 62,000 people via a digital platform that receives and sends money.

Venezuela has 50,973 coronavirus cases and 412 COVID-19 deaths, according to official figures.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by William Mallard