Thousands of people trapped in Venezuela as passport shortage creates lockdown

Thursday, February 16, 2017 by

Venezuela is a country divided. “Chavistas” – supporters of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez – hail them as heroes for using the country’s oil riches to elevate many out of the grip of poverty. On the other end of the spectrum, there are many who oppose the socialist policies of the government, which they claim have eroded democracy. They also allege that the government has mismanaged the country’s natural resources. To complicate things even more, a worldwide oversupply of oil has led to dramatic reductions in oil revenues, leaving Venezuela teetering on the brink of absolute financial collapse.

In 2016, Venezuela’s inflation rate was already the highest in the world, and the BBC reported that experts were predicting it would reach an astronomical 1,660 percent in 2017.

Desperate and hungry citizens who spend hours in long queues hoping to obtain food are often disappointed because of chronic supply shortages – and that’s for those who even have the money to buy. While basic food costs run about $45 per month, the minimum monthly wage is only $15 per month. This means that 90 percent of Venezuelans do not have the financial resources to maintain a healthy diet.

The dire food supply situation has left 20 percent of Venezuelan children suffering from malnutrition, with hospitals admitting more and more desperately ill kids with each passing day. (RELATED: Be prepared; keep up with the latest news at

In their desperation, many citizens have now taken to eating out of dumpsters and have been forced to consume domestic cats and dogs to survive. Some have even started eating exotic animals like flamingos and anteaters. (RELATED: Read more about the dire situation in Venezuela.)

It’s easy to see why people would want to get out of the country, if at all possible. That’s just become even harder, though, with the government announcing that it has a shortage of the materials needed to produce passports.

Though the director of the Identification and Immigration Administrative Service (SAIME), Juan Carlos Dugarte, has tried to downplay the situation by insisting that the agency is addressing the problem, he is nonetheless urging Venezuelans not to apply for passports unless they have already purchased tickets to leave the country.

Thousands of Venezuelans, desperate to leave, have been waiting months for their passports. This has led to a thriving black market where a passport can be obtained for between $500 and $1,000 USD.

The agency has also been actively preventing certain people from leaving the country, specifically journalists and politicians opposed to the government. Trumped up charges of “theft” are used to excuse the cancellation of their passports.

On February 7th, when Congressman William Davila, an opposition politician, announced his plans to start immigration procedures so as to leave the country permanently, he was refused permission to leave. He was initially told that there was a technical error with his passport, and then informed that it had been lost, and therefore, cancelled.

“The autocratic nature of this regime — that does not respect anyone or anything — has been exposed by these actions,” said Davila. “They violate the constitution permanently and show that the only people who are in contempt are those who follow Nicolas Maduro’s orders.” (RELATED: Venezuela’s is not the only autocratic regime. Stay informed at

It would seem that the situation in Venezuela is likely to continue going from bad to worse. It serves as a lesson for those of us who currently may not see a reason to be concerned about the future: Things can change at the drop of a hat. With the whole world on shaky ground politically, it makes sense to be prepared.

And it might not be a bad idea to check that your family’s passports are in order. …

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