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Reading: ‘I won’t naturalize foreigners like crazy’: The Naturalization Campaign in Venezuela, 2004-2006


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‘I won’t naturalize foreigners like crazy’: The Naturalization Campaign in Venezuela, 2004-2006


Tobias Schwarz

Global South Studies Center, University of Cologne, DE
About Tobias

Tobias Schwarz <> is Senior Researcher at the Global South Studies Center, Cologne. He holds a PhD in ‘Europäische Ethnologie’ from Humboldt University in Berlin, where he studied Cultural Studies and Sociology. Currently, he is conducting a research project on naturalization policies in the Global South. His recent publications include ‘Identity from above? The Mission Identity in Venezuela’, in J. Fernández, D. Gallo González, & V. Zink (Eds.), W(h)ither Identity. Positioning the Self and Transforming the Social, Gießen Contributions for the Study of Culture, 2015; and ‘Regímenes de pertenencia nacional en Venezuela y la República Dominicana contemporanea’, Tabula Rasa, (20), 2014.

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Between 2004 and 2006, more than 420,000 foreigners, many of them formerly undocumented immigrants, were granted Venezuelan nationality. This article presents the (historical) context, the Venezuelan immigration and nationality policies, and the three core elements of the naturalization campaign. It was integrated into a programme to distribute identity documents to the population (the Misión Identidad), had a specific legal and administrative foundation (a presidential decree), and was carried out by way of large-scale naturalization ceremonies. Criticisms of the campaign included the allegation that naturalizing hundreds of thousands of formerly undocumented immigrants tampered with the foundation of political representation. In order to scrutinize this claim, the article describes the government’s reasons for implementing the naturalization scheme, as well as the criticisms expressed by the political opposition and civil society, as reported in Venezuelan print media, and relates this to how the naturalization campaign has been implemented in practice.


Resumen: ‘No voy a naturalizar extranjeros a lo loco’: La campaña de naturalización en Venezuela, 2004-2006


De 2004 a 2006, más que 420.000 extranjeros, muchos de ellos anteriormente inmigrantes indocumentados, consiguieron la nacionalidad venezolana. Este trabajo presenta las políticas de inmigración y de nacionalidad venezolana. Además, se enfoca en los tres elementos centrales de la campaña de naturalización: Su integración a un programa de distribución de documentos de identidad a la población (la Misión Identidad), su fundamento jurídico y administrativo (un decreto presidencial), y las ceremonias de naturalización a gran escala. Las críticas a esta campaña postularon que la naturalización de cientos de miles de inmigrantes anteriormente indocumentados habría falsificado el número de población venezolana. Con el fin de examinar esta crítica, el texto describe las razones del gobierno para aplicar éste régimen de naturalización, así como los reclamos formulados por la oposición política y la sociedad civil, mostrados en la prensa venezolana. Esto se relaciona al modo en que la campaña de naturalización se ha implementado en práctica.

How to Cite: Schwarz, T. (2016). ‘I won’t naturalize foreigners like crazy’: The Naturalization Campaign in Venezuela, 2004-2006. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (101), 33–54. DOI:
Published on 13 Apr 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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