On Friday Venezuela created a migration police and announced that passport issuance fees would be paid in the government-created petro cryptocurrency starting next month.
Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez did not provide an explanation for the creation of the new force or give details about its structure. National Guard soldiers currently oversee border security.
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.
Shortages of food, running water, power, and medicine are common in the country.
Maduro says the emigration figures are inflated to make him look bad. He insists that no more than 600,000 Venezuelans have left in two years, and that 90 percent regret doing so.
With Venezuela’s currency having depreciated more than 99% this year and the opposition-led congress estimating annual inflation at 200,000%, thousands of impoverished Venezuelans are emigrating by bus or foot every day.
Many leave via illegal border crossings along the border with neighbouring Colombia, where almost one million Venezuelan immigrants live.
According to Rodriguez, the fees for obtaining a passport as of next week would increase to 7,200 bolivars, or around $62 (47.3 pounds) on the black market – roughly four times the monthly minimum wage. Fees are currently the equivalent of just a few U.S. cents.
Rodriguez added that Venezuela would then start charging for passports in the petro cryptocurrency on November 1.
“The price of a new passport will be 2 petros and (the price) of an extension will be 1 petro,” – Rodriguez said.
A recent Reuters special report, however, showed that Petro is not a functional financial instrument, raising questions about how Caracas hopes to implement its use in the economy.