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Bribery Menu details how corruption rules in Venezuela

In this Feb. 22, 2018 photo, Venezuelan citizens hold up their identification cards for inspection by the Colombian immigration police, in Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Venezuela. Venezuelans are coming in by the thousands in need of urgent medical attention as the country’s health crisis is spilling into neighboring Colombia. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

From WN

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday about a list of bribery payments making the rounds on the social media WhatsApp in Latin America which shows the going rates for a number of services for Venezuelans.

The list includes $4,500 for a passport, $400 for a Chilean visa, $7,000 to erase a criminal record, $100 for a notary stamp that validates college diplomas and other official documents.

Locals said the list comes from those who have been filling the void left by the Venezuelan government known as “gestors” or fixers.

Since their services are illegal, they usually operate on the black market and don’t advertise, often relying on personal connections for new clients, but the circulation reveals just how blatant corruption has become in Venezuela amid compounding economic and political crises.

Venezuela has consistently been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, but now that has become an integral part of everyday life as locals struggle amid widespread shortages of food and medicines while the country endures rampant hyperinflation that has made paper money nearly useless.

But Venezuelans said bribery has taken on a new life during the economic crisis, with gestors taking on a number of roles, from helping people source rare fresh food or streamline access to government documents to help them get out of the country.

More than three million Venezuelans have left their home country since 2015, according to the UN refugee agency, prompting the largest mass exodus event ever to occur in South America.

President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday announced plans to explore mining gold in the OPEC-nation due to the continued economic collapse.

Maduro had already established a “strategic development zone” within the gold arc in 2016 and said the “projections of experts” contained more than 7,000 metric tons of gold.

Venezuela sits on one of the largest oil reserves in the world but has suffered to reach production quotas, prompting Maduro to seek mining as a way out.

The U.S. government already has sanctions in place that target Venezuela’s gold trade, but a number of Venezuelans and “wildcat” miners are already working in the Orinoco Mining Arc in the Venezuelan jungle.

There are also criminal organizations, Colombian guerrilla groups, and Venezuelan security forces who have been fighting for control in the jungle, which the International Crisis Group said resulted in a “spate of mass killings,” with 10 people killed in the last two months alone.

But officials said it’s likely more people are killed since the location is remote and communications are difficult, with many locals also afraid of reprisals from the criminal organizations if they discuss details of the mining operations.

“These miners have no labor rights at all,” says Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based senior analyst for the International Crisis Group. “They’re not protected from any of the dangerous elements — for example, the mercury that’s used in the mining.”

He adds that miners are “also severely at risk of being shot dead: Mining communities have phenomenally high homicide rates, even by the extraordinarily high levels that we see in the rest of Venezuela.”

Most of the gold is smuggled out of the country, which prompted Maduro to increase official security in the area, though some analysts said they are only regulating the criminal activity as a “gatekeeper” and charging for access to the mines.

Environmental groups said the mining was also damaging since many of the criminals don’t observe proper environmental practices.

Gustavo Montes, a Venezuela-based ecologist and environmental studies consultant, estimated in 2016 alone, nearly 84,000 acres within the Orinoco arc were lost to deforestation., Maureen Foody

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