Having a passport in Venezuela is a luxury amid the crisis
Poor life conditions in Venezuela lead citizens to take the decision to leave their land in search opportunities that would allow them to have a healthy life where they can fulfill personal aspirations. However, forced migration, although seeming like the most viable solution, does present complications.One of the main reasons why Venezuelans have had to turn to the use of the trochas (trails) on the border with Colombia is because of the documentation required to pass legally through any of the formal migratory crossings; meaning the passport that every Venezuelan must possess to be able to leave the country and even enter the country via the area.The Servicio Administrativo de Identificación, Migración y Extranjería (SAIME) – Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Foreigners, established that by the beginning of the year 2019 the cost of the procedure to obtain a passport would be equivalent to two (2) petros (one petro is Bs. 36,000); therefore, the cost of a passport would be Bs. 72,000, representing four time the monthly minimum wage. For an average Venezuelan, who must struggle to make ends meet for their family, earning minimum wage implies living their day-to-day life in an extreme way since the level of inflation in the country is increasing every day, which makes it impossible to afford essential goods or services.The minimum salary of a Venezuelan, as established by Nicolás Maduro for January 2019, is Bs.18,000., which according to the Dicom (government official) exchange rate, is approximately USD 6, and quoting at the parallel dollar exchange would be USD 4 for the month of March 2019. This means that a Venezuelan earns less than a dollar a day. Venezuela has the lowest minimum wage in the entire region, even below Cuba and Haiti, which have minimum wages of USD 30 and USD 83 respectively; and these countries are also being economically supported by Venezuela with the shipment of oil according to the Petrocaribe agreement.
In addition to the high cost of obtaining a passport, it is equally important to highlight that in most of the SAIMEs nationwide there is a deficit of passport production due to a lack of material. By August 2018, the country’s drop in plastic production had been registered by 80%, not to mention that paper money has no longer been manufactured in Venezuela for about three years. How does this affect passport issuance? There is a significant impact on the production chain of passports as these are basically made of paper money and plastic, which means that many people must wait months to have a passport and some people, simply because of necessity and urgency, cannot continue waiting.
Having a passport in Venezuela is a luxury that many cannot afford, so in the desperate search to address their worries, they decide to take the risk and embark on the only possible solution they can see, crossing the border through the trochas and thus embark on their journey illegally throughout the South American continent.