Venezuelans who have to process identity documents are experiencing a Kafkaesque tragedy. This month, a muscular gentleman Venezuela could not travel to Poland for the international competition because he did not receive a travel document, a student lost her scholarship in La Soborna because she did not have her passport on time, people who had already emigrated and returned to to process their papers, now they live in limbo in the country they left, and many families could not see each other again on a long-awaited trip. Since mid-June the Saime platform (Autonomous Service for Identification, Migration and Immigration) stopped working and this type of complaints with the label #SAIMEcaído are multiplying on social networks. A month later, last weekend, the portal was reactivated and this Monday the missed appointments began to be made up.
Nicolás Maduro’s government took almost a month to explain the situation. And when it arrived it was full of fog. “Due to the perverse and harmful effects of the technological blockade against our country, our system has been compromised, causing inconveniences in the provision of services,” explains a statement released after the label, bringing together Venezuelans who have been hung with the identification system, Venezuelans without an identity. The statement adds that a “novel technological platform will allow services to resume without foreign technological dependency,” but doesn’t say when. Months ago, the government announced it would print 25,000 passports a month from August, which seems difficult given the bottleneck this paralysis has caused.
The agency said on Monday that the new system was put into operation, without giving further details. Some media have linked the Argentine company Ex Cle Soluciones Biometricas to Saime’s current operations. The company, which was sanctioned by the United States in 2020, took over voting automation when multinational Smartmatic denounced the Venezuelan government for manipulating the results in the 2017 Constituent Assembly elections called by Maduro and having a relationship as a supplier of the elections during almost all Chavismo ended. That year, Smartmatic sued the country in international arbitration for $1.5 million.
But in recent weeks, all sorts of versions of what happened have multiplied in public offices in Caracas and other cities across the country, which were previously full of people editing documents. “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 doesn’t work there anymore and they can’t find him,” they told a young man in the capital. “There is no system” is the most repeated sentence. On Twitter, web developers and geeks Venezuelans claimed to have hacked into the Saime website’s kitchen and found fallen domains. With the restitution, they also confirmed the transfer of servers to the Argentine company.
A reasonable explanation has been sought inside and outside the country for what the NGO Acceso a la Justicia asserts violates several human rights: the right to identity, the right to free movement, the right to family reunification and the right to liberty Disposal of goods that require labeling. According to the organization, this poses a “very serious problem for Venezuelans who need to process identification documents such as ID cards or passports, both inside and outside the country, because there is no other way to manage them and the error has been ongoing since 21 June”.
This has been one of the worst public services for years and is also the target of investigations into data manipulation, express nationalization of foreigners at election time and issuing fake passports that have fallen into the hands of criminals. Security engineer Anthony Daquin worked as a consultant to the Departments of Home Affairs and Justice on automating Saime and issuing electronic ID cards and passports in the early 2000s. After 2005, he became the spokesman for some of those complaints and a critic of what happened later, when the government of Hugo Chávez ceded control of Venezuelans’ data to the state-owned Cuban telecommunications company Albet Engineering and Systems, which received contracts for $1,400 million at the time according to journalistic research in Venezuela and also offered its technology under other names to Argentina and Bolivia.
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Because of his complaints and the alleged persecution he had suffered, Daquin applied for asylum in the United States. “There are at least 12 records and fingerprints for every Venezuelan. That can’t be in one Laptop. What is happening is not the blockade, but that they have no computing capacity and the number of passport applications is increasing,” emphasizes Daquin. According to the specialist, the Venezuelan government has not made the necessary investments to update the special equipment based on US technology. “They spent the money on other things because they don’t care. In China they have an ally with whom they have already created the home map surveillance control system.”
The complication of living in Venezuela begins with ID. One of the recurring concerns of thousands of Venezuelans has been linked to identity: staying in a foreign country without being able to renew their passport – which costs $200 in Venezuela and a little more abroad – or not being able to process it to leave the country the country. Country. Renewal of Venezuelan documents in consulates abroad has been almost impossible for years, precisely during the diaspora years when more than six million Venezuelans left Venezuela in the midst of a debacle that has been left behind by an 80% drop in GDP and 90% poverty .
Although more and more countries have imposed visas to stop the migration of Venezuelans, some, particularly 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 on travelers from Venezuela to the South American country. Iván Duque’s Colombia allows Venezuelans to enter with the expired document, so the upcoming change of government raises concerns about whether this provision will remain in place. The United States, Canada, Peru, Ecuador also allow this but with their respective visas. Argentina only with a term of up to two years. Exceptions arising from the long crisis of the identity system, which do not exist with other nationalities.
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