Merida, October 8, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela unveiled a new police force Friday charged with keeping public order at its seventy-two border stations, with authorities also announcing new, substantially increased, passport fees for citizens.
The new migratory police corps will form part of the national Bolivarian Police Force and will be deployed at all of the country’s border checkpoints, ports, and airports, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez told press.
She stressed that the new body “exists in other countries as an administrative service” and that it has “been developed in a preparatory phase in [Venezuela’s] National Experimental University for Security (UNES).”
The migratory police will be a “highly specialised” body which will look to “attend to the reality on the borders,” which have seen a growing outflux of Venezuelans in recent months. The UN’s International Office on Migration estimates that 2.5 million Venezuelans currently live outside Venezuela, with 1.6m having emigrated in the last two years. Daily cross-border traffic of the floating border population is estimated to be around 37,000 every day on the Colombo-Venezuelan border alone as citizens travel for commerce or to visit family.
The increasing volume of movement has caused logistical and security problems in border localities, which the new police body will reportedly look to control. Rodriguez indicated that the new police body will work alongside Venezuela’s SAIME migratory authority, which is to be restructured due to problems of unprecedented demand for services, entrenched corruption, and shortages of passport paper.
Rodriguez also announced the new administrative fees for Venezuelan passports, unveiling a 5.1 million percent increase.
Five-year passports previously cost 0.14BsS (US $0.001 at the parallel exchange rate), but most citizens were forced to extra-legally pay up to US $25 to due to the bureaucratic impossibility of accessing passports at the official fee.
Passports are to now cost Venezuelans 7,200BsS (four months minimum salary or US $65 at the parallel exchange rate), with a two-year passport extension costing 3,600BsS. A two-year extension previously cost 3.91BsS.
From November 1, prices are to again change, Rodriguez explained, as passport fees are to be charged in Venezuela’s new cryptocurrency, the Petro (Ptr). The Petro is currently unavailable to ordinary citizens, who are allowed to purchase the cryptocurrency as of November 5 according to recent declarations made by President Nicolas Maduro. New passports will cost 2 Ptr (US $120) and extensions 1 Ptr (US $60).
Passports fees for those emitted through Venezuela’s consular network to citizens living abroad are to be temporarily set at US $200 for new passports and US $100 for extensions.
The fee increase marks the first governmental service to be charged in Petros, but follow other significant price hikes in state-run services such as gasoline prices.
“We are advancing towards a new [financial] architecture, a new way of working,” stated Rodriguez upon unveiling the new prices.
The new prices have been met by widespread indignation, especially on social media where many citizens point out that given the high daily cost of living, the new administrative fees will make passports inaccessible for the majority.
SAIME Director Gustavo Vizcaino has previously gone on record in August stating that “a passport costs the state roughly US $16.”
UNHCR visits Cucuta
The new migratory measures introduced by Caracas came as the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, visited the Colombian border city of Cucuta this weekend.
“This morning I have concretely seen the enormous volume of population movement, as well as the complexity of the situation,” he commented in relation to the Colombo-Venezuelan border.
Grandi unveiled a new health clinic with a capacity to treat up to 9,300 Venezuelan and Colombian migrants a month. He also reaffirmed close relations with ultra-right Colombian President Ivan Duque, including holding an upcoming meeting before moving on to visit Peru, Argentina, and Ecuador.
“This is a symbol of the will of the international community to be close to Colombia,” Grandi explained.
Studies in both Brazil and Colombia suggest that around 80 percent of Venezuelans who enter their territory expect to return to their homeland within three months, not including the significant cross-border floating communities.
The Venezuelan government has responded to the exodus by offering to finance flights for those who wish to return, setting up extensive waiting lists in their embassies. According to Caracas, more than 7,000 Venezuelans have already returned to the country as part of the Return to the Homeland program. The Maduro administration has also claimed that attempts to cast the current migratory wave as a “humanitarian crisis” is part of an effort to justify a foreign intervention in the Caribbean country.
The UNHCR has previously gone on record stating that Venezuelan migrants are not to be classed as “refugees,” as well as encouraging other Latin American countries to emulate the receptive attitude towards migrants adopted by Venezuela for decades.