Think you can do an end run around all the bullshit by going to school abroad? Think again.

941718_461126403967205_2090298428_nMy friend Ignacio is a nice, serious-minded young Venezuelan professional who likes to err on the side of rectitude: the type of guy who consciously avoids cutting in line at the bank and only goes through the 10-items or less checkout lane when he has ten items or less. His driver’s certificado medico was actually the result of an eye exam and did not involve a happy envelope. He would never kick a child for cake ingredients.

After a gruelling, months’ long  process of standardized tests, applications, interviews and essays, Ignacio was recently admitted to two prestigious higher learning institutions in the U.S., Stansbury University and Harlow University, where he hopes to further his understanding of International Economics on his way to a Master’s Degree. Way to go, Ignacio.

But there’s a rub: in order to go to school abroad, Ignacio must procure foreign cash. Which he’s not allowed to have in Venezuela. Thankfully, the helpful people over at CADIVI have devised an ingeniously modern and totally transparent system whose sole objective is to help and support all those seeking an education to reach their noble goal while keeping our national economy afloat.

It’s really not CADIVI’s fault that anyone requesting tuition to finance their higher learning must deal with the manila folders, the requisite stickers, the color coding, the alphabetizing of bank statements, and the starting all over again because of a missed coma on page 17. Don’t shoot the messenger, they’re just trying to help.

And anyone complaining about the fact that one’s access to funding for a Master’s degree is only possible if your chosen field of study is contained within the pre-approved list that CAVIDI, again, helpfully publishes on its website…well, that’s just arrogant. Surely this list is the result of objective criteria that us regular citizens are not privy to, and, really, who are we to question the government?

No one really says it, but obviously an integral part of the CADIVI process, as with any other process related to public services in Venezuela, involves fudging some facts. Nothing serious. In fact, nothing, period. Its totally normal and expected and harmless and I don’t see what the big deal is.

It turns out that Ignacio’s chosen discipline, International Economic Development, is not a CADIVI-approved field for graduate studies. So good, law-abiding Ignacio proceeds to do the logical thing: he calls the Stansbury admissions department and matter-of-factly asked that they lie in the official acceptance letter the Venezuelan government would receive, and just pretend that he’s studying Social Economics instead.

Do you KNOW what they said???

“Mr. Ignacio, we don’t do that sort of thing, and frankly, we’re offended that you would even ask.”


Its not like Ignacio’s asking you to do anything that illegal… just to fake an official document making up a major that doesn’t exist. In the Venezuelan moral gradient, that’s not even a wrist-slappable offense. He wasn’t trafficking drugs, or stealing public funds, or bribing supreme court magistrates to incarcerate innocent judges. So it’s bad enough that Venezuelan schools are crumbling, but now foreign universities pooh-pooh our harmless attempts at undermining their code of ethics, all in the name of a post-graduate degree? What has this world come to?

Now that I think about it, Ignacio should’ve saved himself the humiliation of Stansbury’s feigned indignation, as well as a bunch of wasted time and money, and given up on his useless International Economics study plan. Everyone knows you make a lot more money while adding no value whatsoever to our national economy in the exciting field of permuteo. You don’t need any sort of degree for that, just a morally pliable value system and a knack for looking the other way.

And in those things, we Venezuelans, willingly or not, all have PhD’s.

OK, snarkasm aside, this is a cautionary about the difficulties of studying abroad, sure, but it also illustrates two tragic truths about education: first, that education begins with values, and we don’t even have an incentive to learn and exercise those in Venezuela. But, wrapped up with that, it’s that our petrostate, rife with exchange controls and  distortions, makes engaging in quick and easy non-productive activities way more attractive than, y’know, studying and becoming a real professional. How are we supposed to compete in this world of knowledge if any fool who runs around permuteando makes 20 times more dough than our best-educated professional?

*Ignacio’s name and identifying details have been changed, for, ahem,  obvious reasons.

**Stansbury University does not, in fact, exist.

37 thoughts on “Think you can do an end run around all the bullshit by going to school abroad? Think again.

  1. Same goes for us who went to law school. Guess I’ll have to get a master in ingenieria de alimentos socialista or something to be able to pay for my education overseas.


  2. Same goes for lots of people, really. I just got accepted with a scholarship into a PhD programme (in Education, btw) but the stipend awarded isn’t enough to cover accommodation, bills and living expenses. My dad basically sighed and said to try and get Cadivi if I think I’ll have any luck, but not to hold my breath…


  3. It’s a shame that university admissions committees in the US will never have to experience firsthand the difficulties associated with dealing with Latin American bureaucracies. There is something humorous yet tragic about a system that not only tolerates but encourages corruption, theft and outright incompetence yet penalizes the intelligent, the hardworking and the morally upright.


    • How would you support the logistics and defense of revolution otherwise? Malandros with less becas and unrestricted operation means less revolutionaries ready for the fight. It’s the same with corrupt bureaucrats: a Morally upstanding citizen is harder to push into the plastilina figures that revolution believes the new man can be made from


    • It’s very hard for Northamericans to see outside the box as they don’t even know outside the box is a concept. Of ourse I’m generalizing but that is basically so. Yesterday I was listening to a Nigerian author explain on NPR, that whenever she spends sometime in USA she finds herself weirdly even comically confronted by her outraged black undergrads or people on the street, simply because she doesn’t resonate with african- american never ending forms of racism. She ask why should I? “I don’t understand racism because I’m only African and mostly everbody in Nigeria is black like me.” Maybe these undergrads or people don’t even know Nigeria exists.


      • Your comment reminded of all the times I’ve had trouble in Canada and the US due to the fact I have two surnames. Sometimes I get filed under the second one, sometimes they think the first one is actually my middle name… And that’s with 100% kosher bureaucracy (fortunately the Colombian government doesn’t get involved at all if you go to study abroad), from what I’ve heard I can totally imagine Cadivi denying a permit because the university wrote your two last-names with a hyphen or something like that.


  4. Bears repeating ….
    >>>> ….truths about education:
    first, that education begins with values,
    and we don’t even have an incentive to learn and exercise those in Venezuela. <<<

    It's sad, so sad
    It's a sad, sad situation
    And it's getting more and more absurd[Elton John]


    • Why does dadivi spite me?
      Why am I becoming a swindler and a thief?
      Why do I cling to ethics?
      Why do I need to go to univ?
      …Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
      What do I do to make me want me?
      “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”


  5. When I was accepted to Gatorsauraus University I did not have a Social Security number, plus I was actually applying the day before the semester began, so I took my cedula, added two digits and voila! Instant Social Security number.

    The admissions clerk looked at the first three digits and said: ” I have never seen that prefix, where did you get it?”

    “Overseas” I replied (well, I did, didn’t I?)

    “Ah, OK”

    Now granted this was waaayyy pre 9/11 and all that, but perhaps Ignacio should practice some similar dissembling.

    Not so much as not telling the truth, but rather fudging it enough to sorta still be true, por las ramas, as it were.

    So in that CADIVI list in the Gaceta he could say he is studying “Comercio Internacional”, and that’s what he should register for at Stansbury or Harlow, but then Minor in International Economic Development, for example.

    No se, digo yo y vaina………

    Good luck to him, or her, as it were.

    Snarkasm. Awesome word.
    Gotta love it Emiliana!!!
    Sigue asi chama……………!!


    • My wife likes to relay her story whenever someone rants about immigration and how SSNs are stolen. Essentially, when she moved to the US, she was immediately told to apply for a driver’s license, because you could also back door the Social Security Administration to get a number at the same time on the application. Apparently this was true of a number of states, but when she moved here in 1999, the only two left were Florida and Utah, so she rolled into Salt Lake and picked up a Utah DL and two weeks later, a social security card with her name on it showed up at the mailing address.


      Sometimes, the US trolls itself.


  6. I know of someone who convinced a top tier university (his department) to write the closets mayor on the CADIVI list to what he was actually studying. The university ran it through their legal department, they said yes, and he got his subsidized dollars. After of course jumping all the hoops.


    • This is so true….Besides…You receive a MA or MS or a PHD and you put whatever you want in Spanish, When I started my masters, i wrote whatever look pretty for Venezuela…Why? for the same reason the US Universities do not Understand that I studied 5 years, and I saw a bunch of things I waived! ( of course I did a very good translations of my programs… The thing Is Your Friend Ignacio has to talk not to graduate admissions ( they are morons) They have to talk to his school directly. I know other people that The school made the special letters. Other thing is He could apply once he starts classes …that is what I did…
      What do you think was my receipt for paying tuition ? a panaderia ticket!!! I asked for a letter with all Cadivi requests…they just laugh, and said, that is your receipt and do not F… with ridiculous requests!!! so I just went to my school student affair…put everything as cadivi said and Voila!


    • It takes a special type of government to waste millions in public resources to create a bureaucracy (CADIVI) which functions to subsidize the flight of human capital.


  7. I could have written that same page for my son´s case. Or… are you talking of my son? He is just as you have described your friend Ignacio. I even suspect you are a friend of my son and you are talking about him under a disguised name. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics at a very prestigious institution, on May last year, thanks to a generous financial aid package that includes some educational loans that must be paid back, for which CADIVI did not approve dollars, after it had compromised to do so.. He had been accepted to do his masters studies, in University of Bocconi (Italy), La Sorbonne (France) and Johns Hopkins (USA), all of them very well known universities.He had to choose among them. My wife and I, both Venezuelan university professors were willing to support his studies with our meager salaries counting on CADIVI´s support for students abroad. However, one month before he graduated the (in)famous Resolución Nº 3147 came to life cutting off his hopes to get a Master´s degree at an excellent university.

    One more despicable detail, my wife and me have spent all our lives educating fine Venezuelans to be good citizens and professionals. Now that our son has the will and intellectual capacity to get a fine education, he cannot and may not do it because of the disaster where we are: meager salaries, a worthless national currency, and a government decision that economics (International economics) is not a national priority.


  8. One of my best friends got a scholarship for one of those quick masters at spain, he didn’t get cadivi dollars nor remesas, luckily, the scholarship included everything: education, food and shelter, so what he did was to apply for CADIVI as a tourist so he could, at least, get those euros, and that’s how he’s been living for the last 7 months.

    BTW, Krugger, yours it’s a sad sad story that proves once more, with people of flesh and bone, how unjust the situation is: the society asks of you (and your wife) and DEMAND that you do for them what they’re unable to do,or even let you do: give your sons and daughters the education they deserve because of their merits, not because of their origin.

    I sincerely hope that sooner than later your son will be able to pursue that kind of degree and he’ll make the most of his life with it, maybe it’s just wishful thinking and dumb,but, gosh, you guys deserve so much more than what you’re getting! (not just your salaries, but the situation as well)


  9. I have a friend who went to a US University. When he applied for CADIVI they told him that they need a letter with “sello humedo”(rubber stamp). Turns out the university doesn’t use those. So I help him, I called a friend who has a stamp store and had one with the university logo made. Cadivi accepted the new “stamped” letter.


  10. I find that list sooo creepy. If you want to study, say, oncology, ophtalmology, neonatology, political science, human rights, law, international relations, public policy analysis (just to name a few), linguistics, in a foreign university, and your program doesn’t grant you a (generous) scholarship, you are basically scre**d. Actually I can imagine some of the subjects I just mentioned would not be to the liking of our bureaucrats (why finance acquiring a knowledge that will probably make the student critical of the government?). Sigh…


  11. I feel for Ignacio, but Stansbury and even chimbin university are in their right to say “sorry, we don’t do that.” Legal issues (homeland security) on their side, you know. Of course, the CADIVI list is another issue. Oceanography is out, but marine biology is in. Please, bitch!


  12. Emi, you got exactly the feeling of what is like to deal with CADVI when applying for Student CADIVI access.

    What this government surely incentive is corruption! It is to be expected that an American University would not accept to change the name of its program for the sake of a student, but in that case, what a student candidate should do?, apply to a carrer such as Social Economics that does not even exist?, well maybe in Cuba…


  13. As walking and talking advertisement of how CADIVI for students is wasteful to Venezuela, this post brings a lot of mixed feelings.

    On one side, if you don’t use, you don’t get the education you want, you have to go the black market, which makes a criminal and where you could easily become subject to fraud (if you can afford it). On the other side if you use it, you are enjoying a subsidy which will probable will not benefit your country and you are effectively defrauding your country if you do what “Ignacio” is doing.

    The sort of thing that Ignacio did is very common among Venezuelan students in the U.S. and by first hand account, most admissions department do change the information to benefit the students.


    • During the second part of the seventies and early part eighties thousands of young Venezuelans went to the best universities abroad for undergraduate a graduate studies. Almost none of them went out thinking of remaining abroad. Most of us came back to the country to work, to apply what we had learned abroad, and live our lives and raise a family here. The situation is just the opposite now.

      Many, many young bright Venezuelans have gone abroad to live their lives far from the country physically, but many with their hearts and minds remaining attached to Venezuela, Being the latter a kind of torture. Many of them stays attached to Noticias24, Noticierodigital, La Patilla, Caracas Chronicles and the Chiguire bipolar. Many others are dreaming about going to live abroad as well.

      What changed in these years? Our genes? Our culture? Why?


  14. Thanks for the post, Emi.
    This is a very pervasive issue, and has been documented in the specialized literature.One of my favorite thinkers on the bad consequences of natural-resource abundance, Thorvaldur Gylfason, has written a lot on that…

    He mildly put it this way:

    “Nations that are confdent that their natural resources are their most important asset may inadvertently -and perhaps even deliberately!- neglect the development of their human resources, by devoting inadequate attention and expenditure to education. Their natural wealth may blind them to the need for educating their children..”

    Click to access eer2001.pdf


  15. Stansbury has educated your young friend in a very meaningful way, even if he doesn’t acquire credentials from that fine, if imaginaty institution. Now, if he declared that he was an undocumented immigrant, and that the institution’s refusal to honor his request was racist, indicative of the hubris of norteamericanglo white privilege, and heteronormative to boot…


  16. Fake SS numbers, forging rubber stamps and the like are criminal offenses, but not in the mind of the Venezuelan “vivo”, who’s actions have always been driven around how to beat the system by whatever means. This is one of the reasons why Venezuela has become what it is today. Shame on those commenters that support this type of cheating.
    Thank God there are some ethics left in the US and many processes are still based on the honor system which still works to a degree but has become the great opportunistic playground for the vivo.


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