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Caracas, 28 Dec (EFE).
For six years, Alexis Navarro has been denouncing the failure of his telephone and Internet service in his home, but the main telecommunications company in Venezuela, the state-owned Cantv, is not giving him answers and its technicians want to charge him clandestinely when the service to repair the problem is free.
This practice is more and more common. Navarro’s case is only a minimal sample of the corruption in Venezuela’s state-owned companies, where denunciations of extortion range from the person in charge of surveillance to the director or manager of a company.
A technician from Cantv may charge almost $300 to repair a breakdown, depending on the geographic area and the problem the user presents, always without an invoice or proof of payment from citizens who choose to give in the face of a clear unlawful activity.
In the case of Alexis, who lives in the popular area of Catia, the cost can be $100, but for those who live in middle-class areas the figure can even triple, and there is no guarantee that the service -which is the slowest in the region, with less than 4 megabits per second- will be permanently restored, because if the fault is external there is less control over the repair.
Most of the external failures can be caused by wiring theft or the disconnection of them, a situation that occurs, many times, due to the lack of supplies in the company, something that corrupt technicians will never clarify, since their “business” would be ruined.
The Statist economy ruined the country’s Salarai
EFE consulted with at least four technicians from the state-run company, who refused to identify themselves for fear of reprisals, and pointed out that the improper collection, without recognizing it as such, is fundamentally due to the fact that the monthly salaries they receive from the company, which range from $6 to $12, are insufficient.
Some also defend the practice as “independent” or as a way of seeking alternatives to survive in the face of the severe economic crisis that the Caribbean country is experiencing, but from the perspective of the client it is a corrupt act that, almost always, ends up being used due to the lack of answers and the poor service of the state-owned company.
And not even the very workers of the enterprise who are also affected by the breakdowns, escape this type of extortion.
“Sometimes I have been told that, suddenly, if I helped them in anything I could, they would see if they could talk to someone at a high level to speed up the process,” a Customer Service employee who requested to protect her identity told EFE.
The woman assures that, in spite of the fact that she has been without Internet in her home for two years, she “categorically” refuses to pay, because these “aids” requested by the technicians are “very expensive” and, furthermore, there is no guarantee that the work will be done well.
“$80, $120 dollars. These are high amounts, and obviously, with current salaries, it’s not enough, and it contributes to corruption within the institution,” he adds.
Other forms of illegal collection
The same source indicates that people in more senior positions, such as managers, also agree to solve the problems of breakdowns of friends, acquaintances or those they call “referrals”.
The solution goes through something in return and is not for the benefit of the company, but for the staff involved. The payment, in this case, can be some kind of “merchandise” so that the accounts of the senior managers are not involved.
“They may not accept money so that their accounts are not interfered with. Otherwise, they would accept dollars. (Then), it would be merchandise in this case,” says the Cantv employee.
“Merchandise” is often some kind of object or food sold by the person affected by the breakdown and given to the operator.
Cantv, from exemplary company to nest of corruption
According to Cantv’s union, telephone and internet breakdowns “exceed 1.5 million at the national level,” and this, it says, is a consequence of the lack of investment in the company since it was expropriated in 2007 by the government of Hugo Chávez (1999-2013).
The union assures that the company does not have new supplies, that the systems are obsolete and not even the air conditioners where the servers are located work, which causes “slowness in service and the burning of the controller cards of (…) the equipment that is in charge of digitalizing the signal.”
The union’s general secretary, Joan Chávez, told EFE, in a telephone interview, that 80% of the fleet of vehicles and tools of the technicians are converted into “junk”, that there is a lack of trained personnel and that the high management only gives priority to the “political party environment”, since layoffs and forced retirements occur in the case of not being a Chavista sympathizer.
All these factors, he assured, are what have led to the “cultivation” of corruption in the company.
“There are undue charges in foreign currency by some technicians and payment of irregular travel expenses by some in management,” he said.
The endemic corruption caused by the socialist economy
In Venezuela, acts of corruption “go from the person who sweeps the floor to the President of the Republic”, points out Alexis, who has been dragging his issue with Cantv for more than 6 years, without anyone giving him a reasonable answer to his problem.
The pensioner thus refers to the fact that in the oil country there are “managers” for any matter that requires solutions from a state company.
Nicolás Maduro himself has recognized the acts of corruption within the main company of the country, the state owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), for which there are even two former ministers arrested and one requested by Justice.
But corruption also manifests itself in police officers or the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), a body attached to the Armed Forces, which may even request money from the citizens as long as they do not report a fault or do them a “favor”.
That “favor” may be to allow access to refueling without standing in the long line that, these days, has become common in the face of fuel shortages. In exchange, they can request up to $5.
And while tyranny remains impassive in the face of abuse and extortion of citizens, the losers of a game in which those who win are always the same and do so at the expense of the efforts of a subjugated and repressed people.