Brazil calls in army after mob attacks on Venezuelan migrants
The Observer Brazil Brazil calls in army after mob attacks on Venezuelan migrants Military takes control in attempt to defuse tension as angry locals storm camps set up by thousands fleeing poverty
Fears and doubts continue to swirl in Brazil days after President Michel Temer put the army in charge of highways and the Venezuelan border as his government grapples with an escalating migrant crisis and rising tensions. Tens of thousands of Venezue lans fleeing a collapsing economy, hunger and skyrocketing inflation have entered the country.
Temerâs move last Tuesday came weeks after a judge temporarily closed the border in the state of Roraima and 10 days after demonstrators in the town of Pacaraima â" worst hit by the crisis â" trashed migrantsâ camps and torched their possessions, causing more than a thousand to flee back across the border. But the state governor called the army presence âinsufficientâ, critics described it as a âBand-Aidâ and some Venezuelans in the town said they still feared further attacks.
âIt is a short-term, easier solution. Instead of improving the reception of refugees, you leave it for security services,â said Bruno MagalhÃ£es, a professor of international relations at Rioâs Pontifical University. In May, Brazilâs human rights council â" a government body â" expressed concern over the âmilitarisation of the humanitarian response to the flow of Venezuelansâ . The army helps run Roraimaâs 10 shelters and is to open two more next month. It also supplies food and medical care.
According to the UN, 2.3 million Venezuelans have left their failing country â" whose leftist president, NicolÃ¡s Maduro, survived an apparent assassination attempt by drone last month â" to head to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil. According to figures from Bra zilâs federal police published in June, 120,000 migrants have entered via Pacaraima in the last two years. About half are still in Brazil.
MagalhÃ£es said the government should reduce the number of people sleeping on the streets, improve specialist attention for Venezuelans, who often lack documents, and speed up relocations to other states.
Fabiano Coelho, 37, a pharmacist in Pacaraima, said he had not seen more soldiers since Temerâs decree â" but more police and national guard had been visible since the 18 August disturbances. Wilha Melo, 21, a school transport administrator who took part in the demonstration, said many locals still wanted the migrants to leave. âPeople are calmer with the decree but they say it wonât influence anything and the Venezuelans will keep coming.â
A Brazilian army spokesman said 300 soldiers were joining 270 already at the Venezuela border and another 100 near Roraimaâs border with Guyana. The army could now intervene in the event of more violence.
âThe power of common police has now been added,â he said.
The Pacaraima disturbance began after unconfirmed reports that a businessman had been beaten and robbed by Venezuelans. As crowds chanted âBrazil is oursâ, stones were thrown at migrants â" some of whom were sheltered by Brazilians â" and a digger destroyed an outdoor stage used as a camp. Local media have reported isolated attacks in other Roraima towns.
Roraima has a population of about half a million, and its health and education services are being strained by the Venezuelans. Those who canât find space in shelters live on the streets. Others crowd into cheap accommodation, like Nerve Bermudez, 43, and her daughter, Neukaris Maita, 20, who share a house in Pacaraima with 12 others. Formerly a secretary, Bermudez now works as a hairdresser, earning about Â£1.70 a day. âI donât leave the house any more because Iâm scared,â she said.A Venezuelan journey â" in pictures Read more
The numbers crossing the border have halved from 800 a day before the Pacaraima attacks, the army said. But the atmosphere remains tense. Roraimaâs state government says health clinic attendances increased 6,500% last year, and crime has risen 132% since 2015. Governor Suely Campos wants the government to refund the Â£34m the state has spent on health, education and security since the crisis. She also wants a field hospital in Roraimaâs capital, Boa Vista, and more Venezuelans relocated internally â" so far, about 1,000 have moved on to other states.
Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at SÃ£o Pauloâs Getulio Vargas Foundation, said Temerâs 3% approval rating and next monthâs general election limited the presidentâs room to manoeuvre. He welcomed Ecuadorâs call for a regional meeting to discuss the crisis this month and said governments should standardise border pro cedures, monitor migrant flow and set up a fund to compensate the worst-hit regions, writing in an article for Americas Quarterly magazine. âThis is not going away any time soon,â he said.
Additional reporting by Emily Costa in PacaraimaTopics
- The Observer
- NicolÃ¡s Maduro
- Michel Temer
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