There’s a “Saime” on Facebook: the 2.0 business of Venezuelan document managers

There’s a “Saime” on Facebook: the 2.0 business of Venezuelan document managers

Published on 01 Mar 2023

Violations of fundamental rights by the Venezuelan State towards its citizens, especially the right to identity, exposes both those who emigrate and those who stay behind to scam groups through social networks that trade documents, many of them fraudulent. Here we tell you the risks and costs (always in dollars) of this digital search.

By Paula Andrea Jiménez

The right to identity is one of the many rights violated by the Venezuelan State to its citizens, despite being contemplated in Article 56 of the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela. A transgression that impacts those who face every day the excessive bureaucracy of the public administration throughout the national territory and that impacts even more strongly on the exodus, which already reaches 7.13 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees around the world, according to the United Nations R4V platform, as a result of the complex humanitarian emergency that strikes the nation.

In turn, the diaspora’s war of obstacles is especially arduous due to the absence of consular offices in the host countries, the dollarized costs and the requirement of being present in the country they left or from which they are fleeing. It is precisely here where the networks of managers and processors in social networks come into play, a procedure prohibited by Venezuelan legislation itself.

Barriers to access Venezuelan documents

At the end of 2022, the Constitutional Court of Colombia, which has marked a milestone in the guarantee of rights in that nation, requested a legal concept from five of that country’s legal institutions on migration issues, regarding the violation of rights by the National Registry (entity that handles the identification of Colombian citizens) towards the children of Colombians born in Venezuela to exercise the right to Colombian nationality. These institutions consulted, including some specially dedicated to study the Venezuelan diaspora, responded to the highest court with abundant details about the obstacles in Venezuela to obtain identity documents:

  • Problems with Venezuelan birth registration and the risk of statelessness. In many cases, people coming from Venezuela have difficulties in registering their birth in Venezuela, and the issuance of the documents can take a long time.
  • Shortage of materials for the issuance of the certificate of live birth required for timely registration in the Venezuelan civil registry of birth.
  • In-person apostille processing: most people do not have the economic means to go to Venezuela to carry out this procedure, there is (still) no public land transportation between both nations, forcing them to leave through unofficial migratory points.
  • The administrative process in Venezuela to apostille documents is very slow, since it can only be done at the main office, so the interested party must travel to Caracas and there are unofficial costs.
  • Barriers for apostille processing through the virtual mechanism, which is limited to the apostille of criminal records and the certificate of data with consular effects of the National Institute of Land Transportation, and there is only a virtual agenda for face-to-face appointments.
  • In order for a third party to carry out the apostille procedure, a power of attorney must be granted before a Venezuelan authority, which cannot be substituted with procedures abroad.
  • The system requires a process of legalization of the documents before the SAREN, which can only be done in person.
  • The page only allows registration on certain days, depending on the last digit of the identity card or birth certificate, and there are occasions when the message required for account confirmation is not sent to the applicant, making it impossible to continue with the process.
  • The page has constant crashes and delays in loading information, which is why some people are unable to access the electronic system effectively.
  • The web page requires the person to have a Venezuelan identity card, for which reason a person who has migrated without having processed it, because he/she does not meet the minimum age requirement, cannot make the electronic application.

Managers also migrate and bill

The Facebook group called “Trámites SAIME – GTU – Antecedentes – Apostillas – Sacs y algo más!!!”, has almost 11 thousand followers and was created on July 13, 2022 under another name: El Infierno del Darién.

Its initial publications abound with advertisements of coyotes promising to cross the Darien jungle, tragic news about the fate of migrants in that area, santeria jobs, remittances and even famous hoaxes such as the “Venezuelan who filmed himself with a jaguar in the Darien”, which has been dismantled by several verification portals.

On December 6, 2022 they opted to change to the current extensive name, where they ask and offer “gestoría” services for a significant number of identity documents and procedures that are handled and controlled by state entities in Venezuela. A sort of fake SAIME on Facebook.

The group is private, so you must be accepted upon request before reading its postings. Among its two visible administrators is Donna Quispe (with badges of “administrator, conversation generator and founding member”). The other profile corresponds to Dairo B Marquez, whose nickname is “Curry” and with an Instagram profile as @dairobritom with 225 followers. Both have in common the city of Cumaná, in eastern Venezuela, as their place of residence.

Not only did the group’s objective change, but they also quickly organized themselves to gather managers in the same WhatsApp group in which services are offered from Venezuelan cellular lines and other countries in the continent, such as Colombia and Peru, which together have 5 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees. A whole mine of needs and demands for the processors.

All services are dollarized, but they also receive Colombian pesos or the equivalent of the day’s exchange rate in Venezuelan bank accounts. They are offered from the reset of online users to order the passport. “US $ 5, cheap,” they tell users. A striking procedure is the option to obtain the identity card remotely: “The one that does not register in the SAIME at $ 30 and the one that registers comes out at $ 185”.

The procedure is offered for Venezuelans and foreigners, the traditional yellow-backed identification card. The manager sends the potential client the photographs or models (front and back). In short, the user will have in the cheapest offer an identification that does not exist in the system of the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Foreigners (SAIME). That is to say, a forged and false document, even if it is a copy of the original.

“Hello, I am looking for birth certificate apostilles,” says a new customer from a cell phone line in Chile. Then messages start arriving with the bidding for the service: “the certificate with fees costs $150… it is ready in 15 to 20 days”.

In another open Facebook group called “Legalización y apostillado venezolanos”, with more than 12 thousand followers, its administrator, a profile located in Güigue, Carabobo state, exposes to the members the profile of an alleged swindler and asks them to send her information.

The practice of “gestores” is a long-standing issue rooted in the Venezuelan public administration and is sustained by the internal complicity of a network of active officials and recruiters of potential “clients”, the discretionality and the lack of transparency of the administrative processes. There are many factors of those who use these “tramitadores” as desperate exits and who put their money and personal data at risk, at the same time that crimes contemplated in the Organic Law of Identification, the Special Law against Computer Crimes and the Law against Corruption are evidenced. The SAIME itself recently revealed the dismantling of a gang dedicated to the “capture of non-presential passports”, a permanent open secret among the citizens and the authorities.

The breeding ground that feeds the work of these mafias of managers and counterfeiters increases in the face of the undeniable reality: the Venezuelan exodus that does not stop, as documented by Colombian and Panamanian migration authorities, NGOs and international cooperation agencies working on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, through which migration passes in transit or with the intention of staying.

In addition to this, there are countless obstacles (costs tied to the dollar, lack of material, platforms down or with restricted access, technological gaps and poor connectivity, etc.).

Another trigger is the risk of statelessness (not having the nationality of any country, as UNHCR Venezuela points out) in children and adolescents born in Venezuela who left very young without documents or born abroad, which leads their parents to turn to managers and strangers in social networks in the hope that their children and the whole family nucleus can be regularized and have access to fundamental rights such as health, education, work, etc. or take the long and risky road to other destinations in the Americas such as Santiago de Chile, Miami or Quito.

This work is part of the deliveries of the Coalición Informativa “C-Informa”, a Venezuelan journalistic team that aims to confront disinformation and is integrated by Medianálisis, Efecto Cocuyo, El Estímulo, Cazadores de Fake News and Probox with the support of the Consorcio para Apoyar el Periodismo Independiente en la Región (CAPIR) and the advice of Chequeado from Argentina and DataCrítica from Mexico.

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