Venezuela à la carte: Government services for sale

As corruption runs rampant in poverty-stricken Venezuela, citizens who can afford to have increasing options to pay up in exchange for services.

According to a report from Bloomberg, on Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp residents can enlist different “fixers,” to obtain everything from visas to passports.

A recent “menu-style” offer lists a Chilean visa for $400, an American visa for $140 and $100 for a stamp validating college diplomas, Bloomberg reported. Additionally, residents can have their criminal records erased for $7,000.

Bribery has become rampant in Venezuela: Just this week, a U.S. judge sentenced the country’s former national treasurer to 10 years in jail after he was charged with accepting more than $1 billion in bribes to help influential people exchange currencies at a favorable rate for the government – part of a larger money-laundering scheme. Bribery and corruption are particularly popular among the country’s wealthy business community.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s economy – which was once one of the richest in Latin America – continues to spiral further into disarray as a result of the economic meltdown and the policies of the socialist government. The United Nations said earlier this month that 3 million people have left the country throughout recent years as economic and political conditions have deteriorated. Food shortages, rampant inflation and widespread violence remain serious challenges for residents.

The opposition-controlled Congress published a November report stating that the inflation rate rose more than 833,997 percent over the past year, as reported by Reuters. Month over month, consumer prices rose 148 percent.

The International Monetary Fund cautions inflation could reach 10 million percent next year.

The country’s central bank stopped publishing economic data about three years ago.

Some companies, including oil giant Chevron, have maintained operations in the country despite the economic and political turmoil.