Photo: Diario Las Américas, retrieved.

“The security guard said that if I wanted my request to be taken seriously, I’d have to bring a medical file,” says Carlos (not his real name), showing the folder. “My colleagues helped me forge a document stating that I need to travel abroad for treatment.”

His friends in Mérida, Caracas, his family and even doctors in Miami were involved in an initiative that involved more than this one fiction. To get his passport nullified, Carlos had to (falsely) report his documents stolen. The picture of a smiling Chávez in the booth where he was expected to do so, exhibiting a joy that nobody in those offices has felt for years, filled Carlos with foreboding.

The officer received the file and told him of a mistake with his fingerprints. Carlos knew he had to nod and wait. When he nullified his passport in November, 2017, he was convinced that he’d made the right choice. He never imagined the path he’d be forced to take.

“I didn’t want the extension,” he says, with the emphasis of a person who knows how useless the government can be faced with such problems.

“My colleagues helped me forge a document stating that I need to travel abroad for treatment.”

The extension is a piece of paper tacked on to expired passports, to indicate that they’re valid beyond the stated expiration date. The paper’s small but the chavismo’s arrogance is huge, thinking its word carries weight abroad: the extension, for example, is not accepted for student visas in Europe, which was the goal of this young Venezuelan doctor.

That’s why Carlos had to nullify his passport and start from scratch. Back home, he went to the website of the National Immigration System (SAIME) and realized his user was a blank slate, remaining that way for the 43 dawns he tried to make his request (that’s the only time he has internet at home). Finally, the page showed data and he was able to request “the appointment.”

“You get no confirmation of appointment attendance, or even a date to retrieve the passport. Months went by and I still got no answer.”

Specifically, five months he waited, until yielding and paying quite some dough to someone who “could solve his problem.”

Once Carlos got his SAIME user data back, he found there was a problem with the dactyloscopic records, so he went to the headquarters in Caracas, to conclude his bumpy administrative ride.

“There were over 1,000 people waiting outside,” he says. “A lady told me her sister paid $2,500 for her passport, but I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have a single dollar to my name.”

“A lady told me her sister paid $2,500 for her passport, but I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have a single dollar to my name.”

With a black marker, he was assigned the number “1165,” his turn to ask for relevant information. A National Guard officer was posted in the offices, perusing people’s folders and requests with dry disinterest. He stonewalled questions and spouted affirmations.

It was during this process that he heard about the medical excuse, and it only took three days for him to make up his mind, during that back-and-forth between his home and the SAIME HQ. The dense dissatisfaction of both employees and users alike was an almost ever-present gloom in the experience.

He eventually got the good news: that “error” bottleneck was cleared. Now he had to pay for the express passport.

Hanging between anxiety and joy, he returned to SAIME, to stand in line for two days. He paid in bolivars and, 21 days later, he got his passport, valid for five years.

Back at home, his mother waited for himand for water, to take a bath.

“See, these Rawayana guys say that going to SAIME is fast and easy,” she said.

Carlos gave her an exhausted smile, put his shoes and passport away, and just went to bed.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. “The security guard said that if I wanted my request to be taken seriously, I’d have to bring a medical file,”

    Ah… the “paperwork”.

    I can’t speak to the paperwork problem in Venezuela, but I can speak to the “paperwork” issues infecting other Third World nations. Most of those issues can be ameliorated by some proper documentation… providing that document has the portrait of Benjamin Franklin in the middle of it.

    The savvy person (I am not) has a friend who is very good at Photoshop. This Photoshop expert will find an obscure, smiling picture of the local King/Presidente/Oligarch/Dictator of authority (with arms around each another person), and insert YOUR face/head into said obscure picture. This picture must then be transferred to photographic paper. It must now become “a photo of you and Mr. Importante”!

    THEN, when you get into see your low level bureaucrat, you show him your paperwork, and name drop Mr. Importante as your friend. You show the picture. This might cause a look of concern, as the low level bureaucrat might think you are trying to “game” them. Low level bureaucrat must make a choice as to whether you are believable or not. The salient feature of all of this is you need to sell it. A certain amount of cockiness and outright arrogance is required… since the “I have friends in high places” person is typically cocky and arrogant.

    It doesn’t work in the Sudan. Nobody gives a shit who the current dictator is, as nobody knows who he is, nor has ever seen his picture. You just need the cash.

    • My brother and his wife sailed their boat around the world. One of the investments he made before departing was to purchase a rubber stamp of his boat’s name, the registered port (Oakland, California), etc. Cost them perhaps $20, with an ink pad.

      Then when arriving in a country like Venezuela, they would of course be greeted by the usual small time bureaucrats who demand their bribes to get the “permits” to have their small boat and themselves in their country. Being retired Americans on boat, they were presumed to be rich (they weren’t). But no problem. A couple of hundred US dollars usually smoothed the way.

      But he said that the best trick was when he pulled out HIS rubber stamp and ink pad and would then then stamp THEIR paperwork with it. It never failed to impress them, and always made the processes go smoothly.

      For some reason these bureaucrats assume that those with the rubber stamp have the power. Weird, huh?

      • As a Project Manager operating in various places abroad, I sometimes had a stamp made to make my signiture look more “official”. It seems stupid, but it works.

      • Funny thing about stamps. There is a vast subset of civilization who feels that anyone or anything important requires a stamp.

        I had a signet ring once when I was younger. I would melt some wax and seal various letters/papers, just to say I did it. I did it in front of a notary once (Guatemala), and he about crapped his pants. I think he thought that I was some sort of foreign baron or count.

      • It used to be that in business in Venezuela, nothing was considered “valid” or “official” on a signature basis alone. A rubber stamp or “sello húmedo” gave anything the imprimatur needed.

        So if you were signing a note (giro) for the business you had better have that stamp with your company name, your name and title and a thin horizontal line for the actual signature or it was considered non enforceable. Never forgot my first one with “Director-Gerente” for the title. Boy did I feel important! Jajaja

        Letters and correspondence also ALWAYS had to have that “sello húmedo”. Even more so for official documents. There was quite a market for government rubber stamps, and quite a cat and mouse game of changing them to catch fakers (to squeeze instead of prosecute, por supuesto)

  2. Tenemos mäs de tres millones de venezolanos fuera que en 2007 no estaban aquí y aun seguimos sin protestar frente a las embajadas de Cuba y Rusia para que permitan unas elecciones libres con vigilancia internacional y sin veto de candidatos.
    Qué carajos estamos haciendo? Comprendo que la mitad de esos millones tenga otras preocupaciones actualmente pero aun así tenemos muchas más personas. Qué hacen los Borges y Smolanski y otros como ellos?

  3. In the second half of 2018 there was a proposal to make Vz passport extensions last 5 years instead of the iditiotic 2 years that had been the norm. Can anyone confirm that Vz passports now get extensions that last 5 years?

  4. My BR passport expired in December. I had to make an appointment at the consulate about 20 days in advance. I just came back from it. I arrived there at 11:20 for an 11:30 appointment. The lady called me at about 11:35. It took around 15 minutes for her to check the paperwork and enter data. I walked out of the consulate with my new passport at 11:50. It cost US$ 120 in fees paid via USPS Money Order.

    At the VE consulate, I’ve heard they’re charging US$2,500 “under the table”. My veneco passport expired back in 2014, and I don’t plan on getting a new one, ever.

  5. This is a good story well told but can CC slip in a few reports about either about how to end this nightmare or even tell us about opinion shifts in the country. For example are there not passive resistance techniques that Venezuelans could employ. All the stories about the horrors and difficulties surrounding immigration do not advance the ball. It just empties out the country.

    • Agreed Bill.. sad stories provide context but no answers.

      Also, Ive heard of tiendas, panaderías, only accepting $US. Friends have to exhange BsS for $US to buy food. Was wary until my wife’s family and colleagues repeated the same today. That’s bad enif, but who cna actually afford to do thi, pueblo perz and all?

      New year, new game, hope CC steps up their game.

    • I have been repeating this as well but have come to realize that those sorts of articles only serve to stimulate comments which then must be deleted. Now that’s like playing a card game with a deck that is missing several cards. It’s just frustrating and no fun at all.

  6. While we’re on the subject:

    Why would civilized nations continue to accept Venezuelan passports, in such a corrupt and non-functioning government? How the hell does anyone know what the deal is?

    They can change identities, hide criminal records, the sky’s the limit, as long as you have enough dollars to grease the right palms.

    Yes, I understand that countries like the U.S. and all other real countries have a required visa process, but how could this be considered a valid process with all of the bullshit corruption coming out of every single administrative office in VZ?

    Which is why p, I suspect, although not heavily reported on, the U.S. consulate is canceling thousands of standing visas.

    And what about the neighboring countries? Some now demanding passports, but what difference does that make?

    Venezuela has no system, motivation or policies to prevent the extraction of their scumbags to other countries. In fact, they encourage it.

    They learned it from Fidel.

  7. Does any one have any tips for getting a passport in thu us? I can’t seem to find any way to request one in the saime website and can’t check status of my pending request from 4 years ago

    Thanks!

  8. Am told that Venezuelans migrating to Peru find that while venezuelan passports are honoured the venezuelan certification that one is not a criminal is not , instead they ask the would be inmigrant to provide a certificate from Interpol ……evidently they dont trust the certificate issued by Venezuelan authorities.

  9. Bullocks.
    I applied for my passport 2 years ago and I got it recently, no bribes, no extra payments, no nothing. It just took them 2 years to process my passport…

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