Without identity card or passport: millions of Venezuelans are left stranded by the crash of the system | International

People line up to apply for a passport at the Administrative Service for Identification, Migration and Immigration (SAIME) in Caracas, Venezuela.
People line up to apply for a passport at the Administrative Service for Identification, Migration and Immigration (SAIME) in Caracas, Venezuela.Manaure QuinteroBloomberg

Venezuelans who need to process identity documents are experiencing a Kafkaesque tragedy. This month, a muscular Mr. Venezuela was unable to travel to the international competition in Poland because he did not obtain the document to travel, a student lost her scholarship at La Soborna for not having her passport on time, people who have already emigrated and returned to process their papers now they live in limbo in the country they left and many families could not meet again on a long-awaited trip. Since mid-June, the Saime platform (Autonomous Service of Identification, Migration and Immigration) stopped working and this type of laments with the label #SAIMEcaído multiply on social networks. A month later, last weekend, the portal was reactivated and this Monday the missed appointments began to be rescheduled.

The government of Nicolás Maduro took almost a month to give any explanation for the situation. And when he arrived, it was full of nebulae. “Due to the perverse and pernicious impact caused by the technological blockade against our country, our system has been affected, causing inconveniences in the provision of services,” explains a statement released after the label that brings together Venezuelans who were hung with the identification system, Venezuelans without identity. The statement adds that a “novel technological platform will allow services to be resumed without foreign technological dependency,” but does not say when. Months ago, the Government had announced that as of August they would begin to print 25,000 passports per month, something that seems difficult with the bottleneck that this paralysis has generated.

The agency said on Monday that the new system has come into operation, without giving further details. Some media have linked the Argentine company Ex Cle Soluciones Biometricas to the current operation of Saime. The company, sanctioned by the United States in 2020, assumed the automation of the vote when the multinational Smartmatic denounced the Venezuelan Government for the manipulation of results in the 2017 Constituent Assembly elections called by Maduro and ended a relationship as supplier of the elections during almost all chavismo. This year, Smartmatic sued the country for $1.5 million in an international arbitration court.

But in recent weeks in public offices in Caracas and other cities in the country, previously full of people processing documents, all kinds of versions of what happened have multiplied. “It’s a state problem, the president will make a statement,” they told a woman in Ciudad Bolívar. “The one who knows how to fix the system no longer works there and they can’t find him,” they told a young man in the capital. “There is no system” is the most repeated phrase. On Twitter, web developers and geeks Venezuelans claimed to have entered the kitchen of the Saime website and found fallen domains. With the restitution they have also confirmed the transfer of servers to the Argentine company.

Inside and outside the country, a reasonable explanation has been sought for what happened, which the NGO Acceso a la Justicia assures violates several human rights: the right to identity, the right to free movement, the right to family reunification and the right to free disposal. of goods for which it is necessary to have an identification. According to the organization, this represents a “very serious problem for Venezuelans who, inside and outside the country, need to process identification documents, such as IDs or passports, since there is no other way to manage them and the failure has persisted since 21 of June”.

For years, this has been one of the worst public services and has also been the target of investigations for data manipulation, express nationalizations of foreigners during electoral times, and the issuance of false passports that have ended up in the hands of criminals. Security engineer Anthony Daquin worked in the early 2000s on the automation of Saime and the issuance of electronic IDs and passports as an advisor to the Ministry of the Interior and Justice. After 2005, he has become a spokesman for some of these complaints and a critic of what happened later, when the government of Hugo Chávez ceded control of Venezuelans’ data to the Cuban state-owned telecommunications company Albet Engineering and Systems. which received contracts for 1,400 million dollars at that time, according to journalistic investigations in Venezuela, and also offered its technology to Argentina and Bolivia under other names.

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Because of his complaints, and the persecution he claims he suffered, Daquin sought asylum in the United States. “For every Venezuelan there are at least 12 data records and fingerprints. That can’t be in a laptop. What is happening is not the blockade, it is that they do not have computing capacity and there is a considerable increase in passport applications”, Daquin points out. According to the specialist, the Venezuelan government has not made the necessary investments to update the specialized equipment, based on US technology. “They have spent the money on other things, because they are not interested. In China they have an ally, with whom they have already created the surveillance control system for the homeland card.”

The complication of life in Venezuela begins with the ID. One of the recurring worries of thousands of Venezuelans has been related to identity: staying in a foreign country without being able to renew the passport —which in Venezuela costs $200 and abroad a little more— or not being able to process it in order to leave the country. country. The renewal of Venezuelan documents in consulates abroad has been almost impossible for years, precisely the years of the diaspora in which more than six million Venezuelans left Venezuela in the midst of a debacle behind which there is a drop of 80%. of GDP and 90% poverty.

Although more and more countries have imposed visas to stop the migration of Venezuelans, some, especially as a result of the internationalization of the political crisis with the recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president in 2019, have had to make concessions with travelers from the South American country. In the Colombia of Iván Duque, Venezuelans can enter with the expired document, so the imminent change of government revives concerns about whether that provision will continue. The United States, Canada, Peru, Ecuador also allow it, but with their respective visa. Argentina only with up to two years of maturity. Exceptions derived from the long crisis in the identity system that do not exist with other nationalities.

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