Brazil orders troops to Venezuela border as migration exodus met with violence amid economic collapse

Brazil is sending its armed forces to keep order near the Venezuelan border following violent clashes between local residents and thousands of Venezuelans fleeing economic collapse and turmoil in their country.  

President Michel Temer signed a decree to deploy the armed forces to the border state of Roraima following riots by residents earlier this month, who attacked Venezuelan immigrants in a border town.

He said the move was aimed at keeping order and ensuring the safety of the immigrants.

The situation in Roraima, where most Venezuelans enter Brazil, has become increasingly fraught in recent months – its homicide rate has spiked this year and is now the highest in the country. 

As a result of the crisis in Venezuela, 700 to 800 Venezuelans enter Brazil every day, and President Temer also said that the authorities were discussing limiting that to between 100 and 200 as the border state struggles to cope with the influx fleeing the turmoil in Venezuela. 

Residents in Brazilian border towns rioted and attacked Venezuelan immigrants in a border town earlier this monthCredit:
 LUIS ROBAYO/AFP

"The problem of Venezuela is no longer one of internal politics. It is a threat to the harmony of the whole continent," Mr Temer said in a televised address.

More than 50,000 Venezuelans, many of whom are hungry or sick and have little or no money and belongings, have applied for refugee or resident status in Brazil in recent years. Authorities in Roraima state say the federal government needs to do more to help them deal with the situation as tempers fray amid the influx. 

Nicolas Maduro launched a new oil-backed cryptocurrency called "Petro" earlier this yearCredit:
FEDERICO PARRA/AFP

Just over a week ago, angry residents of Pacaraima, a border town in Roraima, hurled rocks at Venezuelans and set fire to their belongings after migrants were blamed for an attack on a local store owner.

Around 1,200 were driven back across the border by the violence. 

But one Venezuelan, who has been living in the area since 2015 and now works with an aid agency in Boa Vista, Roraima, said that despite the difficulties, Brazil was still a better reality than Venezuela for many. 

"We are coming from a country that’s very violent right now," Alba Marina, who works with Fraternidade Sem Fronteiras, told The Telegraph. 

Roraima’s government has tried a few times to shut the border to stem the flow, but the federal government and courts have so far pushed to keep it open. 

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Since 2014, an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their country’s growing humanitarian crisis, including shortages of food and medicine, according to the United Nations.

Some countries, like Peru and Colombia, see thousands enter each day, and the influx has strained the resources of countries around the region and led to xenophobia and sometimes violence, as well as a tightening of entry requirements. 

Peru, meanwhile, declared a 60-day health emergency in two provinces on its northern border, citing "imminent danger" to health and sanitation as a result of the migration crisis.

The decree, published in the government’s official gazette, did not give more details on the risks, but health authorities have previously expressed concerns about the spread of diseases such as measles and malaria from migrants.

A Venezuelan man and his daughter eat a meal on the side of a road in Boa Vista, Roraima state, BrazilCredit:
 MAURO PIMENTEL/ AFP

The exodus of Venezuelans to other South American countries is building toward a "crisis moment" comparable to events involving refugees in the Mediterranean, the United Nations said this week.

There are close to 1 million Venezuelans now living in Colombia and more than 400,000 in Peru. 

But Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, a socialist leader who has long been supported by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, said Venezuelans should stop leaving the country and return instead to their homeland, the "country of opportunity". 

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