The thousands of people trying to get out of Venezuela will soon have another hurdle in their path: the inability to buy a passport without enough of the country’s new cryptocurrency Petro.
Thousands Trying to Leave
The economic crisis that led to the Petro’s creation has caused an estimated 5,000 people per day to leave Venezuela, according to data from the United Nations Refugee Agency, and the country’s government has just announced passport fees will only be payable in the state-backed cryptocurrency.
— Reuters Venezuela (@ReutersVzla) October 5, 2018
The Venezuelan government announced the change on Friday, along with the creation of a new migration police force, according to Reuters. Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez reportedly provided no reason for the creation of the new police force.
New passports for Venezuelan residents will cost two Petros, which comes out to 7,200 bolivars, Venezuela’s native fiat currency. That’s equivalent to four times the national monthly minimum wage, according to Bloomberg.
This presents another major barrier to residents hoping to escape the country’s rampant inflation and political corruption, in addition to the scarcity of official documentation and a dearth of airlines serving the country. Reuters states in their report:
“Some 2.6 million Venezuelans have fled the OPEC nation of 30 million, mostly to other parts of South America, according to the United Nations. Around 1.9 million have fled since 2015 as the crisis worsened under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.”
President Maduro has stated that the government will continue to pay workers salaries in bolivars until Nov. 5, when the Petro goes on sale to the public.
Adding to the Headache
The Petro was released earlier this week amid much fanfare by the president’s office, including the creation of a new government department to oversee cryptocurrency assets named Sunacrip. Currently, the Petro is only for sale in exchange for hard currencies and can be bought with the bolivar starting in November 2018.
However, the bolivar has depreciated over 99 percent this year, and some estimate the country’s inflation rate to be a staggering 200,000 percent. That devaluation will make it difficult for emigrating Venezuelans to scrape together enough native currency to buy the two Petros necessary to get a ticket out.
Currently, passport fees are the equivalent of a few U.S. cents, but with the shift to Petro, the fees equate to around $62 on the black market, according to Reuters. The change will reportedly take place on Nov. 1.