Venezuelan crisis made huge number of citizens to enter Brazil

The number of Venezuelans entering Brazil is rising, officials say, despite Saturday’s attacks on makeshift migrant border camps.

A Brazilian army spokesman said about 900 Venezuelans were expected in the state of Roraima on Monday, a steep rise in the daily average.

The numbers of people trying to flee Venezuela’s economic collapse are stoking regional tensions.

There is fresh uncertainty following the issuing of new banknotes.

Banks and shops are due to reopen on Tuesday after a public holiday on Monday, when the left-wing government lopped five zeros off the bolívar and anchored it to a new virtual currency called the petro.

The government says the move is needed to tackle runaway inflation, but critics say it could lead to even more chaos.

Opposition groups have called for strikes and protests on Tuesday.

What is happening in Brazil?

Extra security forces have been sent to the border with Venezuela following violence near the town of Pacaraima on Saturday.

The Roraima state government has asked the Supreme Court to temporarily halt the entry of migrants from Venezuela, saying social services were being overwhelmed.

However, Brazilian Security Minister Sergio Etchegoyen said closing the border was “unthinkable, because it is illegal”.

He said the presence of military police at the border had improved the situation.

“There’s tension, but there’s no conflict,” he added.

Riot policemen talk with people from Venezuela after checking their passports or identity cards at the Pacaraima border control, Roraima state, Brazil August 19, 2018Image copyright REUTERS

Many of those crossing into Brazil say they are hungry and don’t have access to medical services in Venezuela.

The army said that on Sunday about 800 Venezuelan migrants arrived in Roraima, about 300 more than the average number crossing every day for almost a year.

In Pacaraima on Saturday, several migrant encampments were attacked by angry residents following reports that a local restaurant owner had been badly beaten by Venezuelans.

Hundreds of migrants fled back across the border and gangs of men burned their camps and their belongings. Reports on Monday said many had since crossed back into Brazil.

There has been growing animosity towards the numbers of Venezuelans entering Roraima in recent months.

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Underlying tensions boil over

By Julia Carneiro, BBC News, Pacaraima

Venezuelans walk past belongings and tents burned by civilians at the Pacaraima border control, Roraima State, Brazil August 19, 2018.Image copyright REUTERS

There is no visible sign of Saturday’s violence in Pacaraima. The city is quiet, the streets are clean. Firefighters have washed away the ashes from where Venezuelans had been living, their tents and belongings burned by protesters.

Many Venezuelans have left – but more keep coming.

On Monday, residents organised a “peace motorcade” to try to dispel the idea of intolerance. They said Venezuelans were welcome, but violence was not.

But as soon as I started speaking to Venezuelans about what had happened, Brazilians jumped in to say they were lying. The row exposes the underlying tension that has been building up in Pacaraima.

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