CARACAS – This week, hundreds of Venezuelans swarmed outside the Chilean Consulate hoping to get a new visa created by Pinera administration to offer a home to poor people leaving the crisis-hit country.
However, the new visa, which is designed to speed things up by letting people handle the red tape before leaving for Chile, was greeted by confusion Monday, with hundreds lining up before dawn at the consulate in Caracas worried that they would be barred from entering the South American country.
Chile last week announced the new system, which allows Venezuelans threatened by hunger amidst the country’s economic collapse to live and work in the Andean nation for one year.
The new visa, named “democratic responsibility” in reference to allegations that the government of President Nicolas Maduro has turned into a dictatorship is renewable and can become permanent.
As the consulate is closed on Mondays, the crowd of some 400 jostled to read a small board with instructions for obtaining the visa announced last week by President Sebastian Piñera.
The bulletin board referred people to the website of the Chilean Foreign Ministry, as applications for the new visa are handled online.
There were no extra staff at the consulate on Monday and only about 20 people with an appointment were permitted to enter, according to Bloomberg.
With files and documents in their hands, many of those lining up had slept overnight outside the consulate. Those who had more information or experience of the paperwork gave tips to people arriving.
Venezuelans have been enduring an economic crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine. Inflation this year is forecast to hit a staggering 13,000 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Between 400,000 and half a million Venezuelans have left their oil-rich and once prosperous country over the past two years.
Haiti, Venezuela and Colombia are the countries with the highest migration growth to Chile in the last four years.