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Venezuela

Want a passport? Venezuela tells citizens to pay for travel document in state-backed cryptocurrency

An intensifying economic and humanitarian crisis means that an estimated 5,000 people leave Venezuela daily, according to the United Nation’s latest data.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 October, 2018, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 October, 2018, 1:59pm

Venezuelans seeking to escape their country’s hardships now face another hurdle: getting their hands on the government’s elusive Petro cryptocurrency to pay for their passports.

New passports will cost two Petros, which is equivalent to 7,200 bolívars (US$115), or four times the national monthly minimum wage, vice-president Delcy Rodriguez said in a televised press conference from Caracas on Friday. President Nicolas Maduro announced a revamped Petro at an event last week almost eight months after what was supposed to be its initial launch date. The token is meant to be backed by oil and mineral reserves and is expected to go on sale starting November 5.

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Venezuelans already spend days in queues hoping to apply and secure passports since lack of materials and rampant corruption have made official documents scarce. An intensifying economic and humanitarian crisis means that an estimated 5,000 people leave Venezuela daily, according to the United Nation’s latest data.

The Petro enforcement could make it even more difficult for Venezuelans to travel abroad, with the country practically cut off from the rest of Latin America by major carriers. Avianca, LatAm Airlines, United Airlines, Aeromexico and Deutsche Lufthansa are among a long list of airlines that have stopped servicing Venezuela.

The government of Venezuela on Friday created a migration police amid the mass exodus sparked by a deep economic crisis in the oil-rich nation. Shortages of food, running water, power, and medicine are common in the country.

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Many leave via illegal border crossings along the chaotic, porous 2,200-kilometer (1,400-mile) border with neighbouring Colombia, where almost one million Venezuelan immigrants live.

Rodriguez did not provide an explanation for the creation of the new force or give details about its structure. National Guard soldiers currently oversee border security.

“The migration police is born to tend to the 72 (ports of entry) that exist at borders, ports and airports,” Rodriguez said.

The Information Ministry did not reply to a request for details.