When Cadivi and the First World Collide

You try to explain to a prestigious gringo university that unless they falsify the major on your admissions letter your government won't let you go there.


My friend Ignacio is a nice, serious-minded young Venezuelan professional who likes to err on the side of rectitude: the type of guy who consciously avoids cutting in line at the bank and only goes through the 10-items or less checkout lane when he has ten items or less. His driver’s certificado medico was actually the result of an eye exam and did not involve a happy envelope. He would never kick a child for cake ingredients.

Some years ago, after a gruelling, months’ long  process of standardized tests, applications, interviews and essays, Ignacio was admitted to two prestigious higher learning institutions in the U.S., Stansbury University and Harlow University, where he hoped to further his understanding of International Economics on his way to a Master’s Degree. Way to go, Ignacio.

The rub? in order to go to school abroad, Ignacio needed dollars. Of course. Thankfully, the helpful people over at Cadivi had devised an ingeniously modern and totally transparent system whose sole objective was to help and support all those seeking an education to reach their noble goal while keeping our national economy afloat.

It was really not Cadivi’s fault that anyone requesting tuition to finance their higher learning must deal with the manila folders, the requisite stickers, the color coding, the alphabetizing of bank statements, and the starting all over again because of a missed coma on page 17.

Don’t shoot the messenger, they’re just trying to help.

And anyone complaining about the fact that one’s access to funding for a Master’s degree was only possible if your chosen field of study was contained within the pre-approved list that Cadivi, again, helpfully publishes on its website…well, that’s just arrogant. Surely this list was the result of objective criteria that us regular citizens are not privy to, and, really, who are we to question the government?

No one really says it, but obviously an integral part of the Cadivi process, as with any other process related to public services in Venezuela, involves fudging some facts. Nothing serious. In fact, nothing, period. It’s totally normal and expected and harmless and I don’t see what the big deal is.

It turns out that Ignacio’s chosen discipline, International Economic Development, was not a Cadivi-approved field for graduate studies. So good, law-abiding Ignacio proceeded to do the logical thing: he called the Stansbury admissions department and matter-of-factly asked that they lie in the official acceptance letter the Venezuelan government would receive, and just pretend that he was to study Social Economics instead.

The reply?

“Mr. Ignacio, we don’t do that sort of thing, and frankly, we’re offended that you would even ask.”


Its not like Ignacio was asking them to do anything that illegal… just to fake an official document making up a major that didn’t exist. On the Venezuelan moral gradient, that’s not even a wrist-slappable offense. He wasn’t trafficking drugs, or stealing public funds, or bribing Supreme Tribunal magistrates to incarcerate innocent judges. So it’s bad enough that Venezuelan schools are crumbling, but now foreign universities pooh-pooh our harmless attempts at undermining their code of ethics, all in the name of a post-graduate degree? What has this world come to?

Now that I think about it, Ignacio should’ve saved himself the humiliation of Stansbury’s feigned indignation, as well as a bunch of wasted time and money, and given up on his useless International Economics study plan. Everyone knows you could make a lot more money while adding no value whatsoever to our national economy in the exciting field of permuteo. You don’t need any sort of degree for that, just a pliable value system and a knack for looking the other way.

And in those things, we Venezuelans, willingly or not, all have PhDs.


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  1. Ugh. I’m feeling a wave of self-loathing after reading all of these Cadivi posts. Luckily, my area had the revolution-friendly stamp of approval –which was heavily slanted in favor of engineering and the natural sciences, to the detriment of the social sciences and the humanities– and I never had any major issues with getting the approval from Cadivi each semester, but I feel bad about the fact that, effectively, it was through Cadivi that a poor family subsidized me going to grad school abroad (after also paying for my undergraduate education in Venezuela).

    Crazy. Just crazy.

  2. I can totally relate to this. I remember when applying for my studies in Germany trying to haggle with the admissions office over the wording of the admission letter. Everything from semester dates, to the actual name of the study program so they would fit to the tight filter CADIVI imposed. Thankfully German to Spanish translation allows for some wiggle room given no one in Venezuela will verify word for word. At the end it was to no avail because it was 2014 and folders were being rejected en masse. Thankfully in Germany there plenty of legal and viable alternatives to finance one’s studies other than praying to the unknown spawn of hell who controls CADIVI.

  3. That is the true evil of this system. First it creates tiny cracks in our personal integrity. Then, once we have accepted the cracks, wedges are driven into the cracks until at last, we are all hopelessly corrupted. Then, how can we morally condemn the criminals in the government? After all… we are ALL guilty!

    Ya basta!

    • communism is a well tested recipe.

      Take control and create conditions for everyone to be corrupted and controllable.
      in our siglo XXi version, Venezuelan wealth was used to corrupt everyone as long as the masters were allowed to steal the most. At the end (2016?) the treasury is depleted and the orgy will soon be over.

      Time to face la resaca and pay for the damages…

  4. Many of us can relate to this post…In my case, I studied Political Science, however after talking to my university the signed all papers as if I were a Physics major.

  5. I bet Ignacio would get the hell out of Cleptozuela if he could, or had better options. Like most of us who could, did, And will not go back any decade soon, at least until there 5 Million USD to be made, and it’s not the most dangerous country on planet earth.

    The point is: people underestimate the enormous damage of Venezuela’s massive Brain-Drain. No one talks about it. It’s somewhat intangible, but with HUGE future repercussions. 1.5 Million. GONE. Not to return, except for a few hundred.

    Best of the best, usually, the better educated, brightest, most capable professionals: Gone for Good. You and me. And then some. Next year, expect many more to get the hell outta there. Can’t blame them.

    Now what does this enormous Elite Brain Drain do to a country, with just 30 million of vastly under-educated folks? It leaves the Monkeys, the corrupt, the dumbest in charge of private and public business.
    Who is our Elite these days? Capriles? Henry, Aristobulo? and those are among the best still left.. Not to mention Private companies which make the Economy run.

    Ignacio, get the hell out of there, while you still can. Unless you get some Enchufe, which is what most (90%) of “el pueblo” do. But since you’re a straight shooter, Venezuela is not for you. Run for your life, even to Colombia, Panama or Chile.

  6. Actually Emiliana, your story touches something beyond CADIVI and illustrates how some efficiencies in developed world are obtained at the cost of discretionary decisions.

    Say you go to a fast food restaurant that has 2 different sandwiches. For sake of discussion sandwich A has a tomato slice. Now you go up to the minimum wage cashier and order sandwich B but ask for a modification of adding tomatoes to it 2 slices!, boom, you’ve stumped the cashier, the manager has to come in… The whole system is disturbed.

    In Venezuela, the cashier at any arepera will tell his friend at the food preparation station about your request, and it is solved, no manager is involved and no one broke a sweat. Easy.

    This story is a little exaggerated, but it is quite true if you call some mail order place and try mixing up options.

    I have a ultra Venezuelan friend that arrived to the US in 1992 and would have a hissy fit every time he came across such occurrences. He would, in an exasperated way, explain that his request was trivial and that here was absolutely no need to escalate the situation if operator did what was so obviously reasonable. But, no-can-do. It would kill him.

    This even happens to all Americans, with similar effects, My daughter had a similar experience with the admission office at her university while pursuing her SECOND undergraduate degree. They were hung up with a grade of a Freshman year in high school! She had to talk to the dean of admissions to get around it.

    The point is that discretionary decisions are very limited and this discipline is strongly enforced as you go down the responsibility chain, very much in a production line mentality. This rigidity gives efficiencies and replicable performances, but when it does not match the need they become so burdensome.

    • In Venezuela, or in Spain, seems to be part of our cultural “Latino” bit, you learn to be an hero or a zero. In countries that rank higher, you have systems that work, and people are not that relevant.

      This is in fact something known in management. In IT management there is a thing called the Capabilities Maturity Model, describing the levels in with an organization can meet and deliver the projects it is working on. Literally the level 0 is that things get done by personal effort, but as that depends on so many variables, like, does the guy doing the personal effort also have a clue, or is your hero girl in the team just fed up with being Supergirl for a paycheck and decides to quit after severe burnout… that your organization, on average, is late or does not deliver. You cant even repeat pass successes; they were a combo of ad-hoc situations.

      More mature organizations may be very boring places to work, and have a lot of people that are not precisely the brightest bulb, but as process are well defined, documented and improved, you can count on them delivering reliably. They will get the job done.

      • Hey Jesus,

        In fact this predictability of the system is what makes a place developed.

        You can have an incredible auto in the US and in Venezuela if you have the money. The difference is the predictability of your commute. In the US the variability is mostly contained within a tight interval. Yes there are bad days and there may be news breaking days like Atlanta’s Snowmagedon.But in places like Venezuela, a bad rain will quadruplicate your average commute every week even if you are in the incredible auto.

        Same for most bureaucratic experiences. They may be painful, but mostly understood and bound in time and money.

        During ‘La tragedia del Vargas’ I was fascinated by an article that described the number of rescue missions made by some Venezuelan helicopter team, probably the army, compared to some foreign team that had come to help. Venezuelan’s were notably more productive than the foreigners, but the closing paragraph reported that the Venezuelan had 2 accidents, the foreign team had none.

    • “The point is that discretionary decisions are very limited and this discipline is strongly enforced as you go down the responsibility chain, very much in a production line mentality. This rigidity gives efficiencies and replicable performances, but when it does not match the need they become so burdensome.”

      Venezuela’s system is the worst of both worlds. It’s extremely burdensome while still allowing much discretion and room for abuse.

  7. I have to admit went through the same kind of issues while I was getting my Master’s degree, I was rejected multiple times by horrified university employees about my “illegal” request. I endedup knowing a Cuban secretary in the Social Work department that completely understood my situation and was willing to help.
    I remember having to explain it for along time to get rejected, it only took me 3 sentences to my cuabn firend. It only included the words Chavez and her face changed complete.

  8. If I were policy maker for an honest, transparent Government of Venezuela, I would pay for studies abroad in the following majors: STEM, and probably economics and business. [STEM= science, technology, engineering, and math]. Most liberal arts majors in the US have been corrupted by the progressive, politically correct crowd.

  9. I would like to see the Cadivi-approved fields of study. However the website is down, which I assume is not the first or last time. Could you upload the PDF to your local site?

  10. Good post, Emiliana, only not all Venezuelans can cheat like that…and not because they were better or worse but because a lot of them just do not have access to certain things…like credit cards OR certain minimal education.

    There are millions of Venezuelans who have not used CADIVI because they simply do not have one of the ways to milk the cow and those millions who can use CADIVI are being basically financed by the former.

    CADIVI is a goodie paid by taking away from the children in Los Guayos, Punto Fijo, Los Teques, Acarigua, Boconó, El Tigre, etc, etc who have less than 50% of classes because their teachers can’t afford or care to go to work. CADIVI is financed by the money that should go to hospital resources (well, the other story is about the massive theft by hospital employees, including hospital directors, of state resources)


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