Riots and acts of violence and destruction were reported in camps of Venezuelan immigrants in Pacaraima in Brazil’s northern state of Roraima, according to the Brazilian Army’s Humanitarian Logistics Task Force.
Groups of Brazilians chased Venezuelan refugees living in the Pacaraima region and burned their belongings, after a demonstration was called against Venezuelan immigration on August 18. A local merchant had claimed “foreigners” had beaten him and stolen R$23,000 ($5,900) and a number of cell phones.
Some refugees were hit by sticks and expelled from the tents they occupied in a temporary encampment near the border. They allegedly started to vandalize Brazilian vehicles in their retreat to Venezuelan soil.
Roraima is on the border of Venezuela.
Members of the Venezuelan border patrol fired warning shots in an attempt to contain the situation (Globo.com in Portuguese). More than one million Venezuelans have fled the Nicolás Maduro regime, with its hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicines. Of these, an estimated 130,000 have crossed the border to Brazil.
Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, has refused to close the border (Reuters), but has increased the border security force from 31 to 151 officers.
While the family was sheltering in a bus terminal, a group of locals arrived with sticks and rocks attacking whoever they could find. “They grabbed the boys and beat them. They beat parents. They threw stones, tiles. They beat you on the head,” she said.
“They took our food and kicked us out as if we were dogs. Whoever was in the toilet [and could not be seen] was left unharmed.”
Colonel Hilel Zanatta, commander of the humanitarian army campaign called Operation Acolhida, said that about 1,200 Venezuelan immigrants left Pacaraima and the country after the riots (Noticias R7 in Portuguese).
Exoduses of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans fleeing crises in their countries have given rise to xenophobia and are exacerbating regional tensions.
Brazil is sending more army troops to its Venezuelan border after the riots.
Ecuador has limited entry of Venezuelans since last weekend, a measure Peru will be applying on August 25 due to the arrival in the country of 20,000 immigrants last week.
In Costa Rica, a protest against the presence of Nicaraguans on August 18 brought hundreds of people onto the streets, some reportedly bearing Nazi swastikas (El País in Portuguese).
The United Nations estimates that 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their country (AP) in recent years.
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