Millions of dollars aimed at helping healthcare workers in crisis-stricken Venezuela cannot enter the country because the cryptocurrency exchange helping the project has been blocked.
An initiative was launched last week by main opposition leader, Juan Guaido, to unlock frozen Venezuelan government funds and transfer them to the South American country. The project, Heroes of Health, hopes to send $17 million to 62,000 underpaid healthcare workers in a bid to help them fight the spread of COVID-19.
But the exchange supposed to help the movement of funds, AirTM, said that the project is struggling to take off because users are unable to access the website, according to an Associated Press report.
AirTM uses a digital wallet connected to banks and blockchains in order to send money abroad. It has become popular in Venezuela—which has the world’s highest inflation—in recent years as people try to get dollars or crypto into the country.
The exchange has been blocked in the country since 2018, but users have found ways of using it, primarily VPNs.
Now, though, when it is most needed, healthcare workers are struggling to access it.
At the time of writing, a new website with a different address appeared to pop up, helping healthcare workers access the funds, Venezuelan citizens informed Decrypt.
Guaido—who is recognized as the legitimate president of Venezuela by a number of countries—yesterday shared information on Twitter to try and help people access the money.
The US last year froze Venezuelan government assets in an attempt to put pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, who it does not recognize as the country’s legitimate leader.
Venezuela, which had been reliant on oil exports to drive its economy, is suffering from a grave financial crisis as global oil prices fell. Over 5 million people have fled the country since 2015—mainly to neighboring Latin American nations—and it has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic.