Chile’s new visa for Venezuelans fleeing the country’s economic collapse 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 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. Yet, there were no extra staff at the consulate on Monday and only about 20 people with an appointment were permitted to enter. Chile consulate officials could not be reached for comments.
“This decision by Chile is harsh,” said Gilberto Palacios, a 47-year-old architect who came from Maturin, a city 250 miles from Caracas. “It seems to be to stop the flood of Venezuelans going there.”
Most of those lining up had booked flights to Chile before last week’s announcement and wanted to know if they could still enter and stay in Chile with a tourist visa, as had happened previously. The only information many could find was written on a board outside the consulate. It was an inauspicious start to a system that may need to deal with more than a hundred thousand applications, if last year’s influx is anything to go by.
“I want to work in my area legally,” said Palacios, who has an uncle living in Santiago since 2017. In Venezuela, “inflation eats up your wage. There is no way of surviving with what I earn here”.
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.
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.
“I’m trying to find out if all of us who bought plane tickets have to go through all this new paperwork,” said María Díaz, a 20 year-old hairdresser whose husband is already working in Chile. He had to leave before she gave birth to their daughter and they planned to reunite by the end of the month. “Now my daughter and I will have to wait I don’t know how long,” Diaz said with tears in her eyes.
— With assistance by Andrew Rosati