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Brazil gets tough on Venezuelan migrants

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Army soldiers patrol on a street next to people from Venezuela after checking their passports or identity cards at the Pacaraima border control, Roraima state, Brazil August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

As more and more Venezuelans flee their country where food and basic ameneties are scarce, Brazil sent in the army to the border. Brazilian president called the situation a "threat to the entire continent", while Security minister Etchegoyen said there needed to be "discipline" in the influx of migrants.


Brazilian President Michel Temer signed a decree Tuesday that authorises the army to "guarantee law and order" on Brazil's border with Venezuela

He also appealed to the international community to adopt diplomatic measures for the hundreds of thousands of Venezueleans who are leaving their country amid  economic and political rife under President Nicolas Maduro's regime.

Temer said his measure was aimed at providing "security for Brazilian citizens but also Venezuelan immigrants fleeing their country."

Earlier this month, more than a thousand homeless Venezuelan immigrants flooded over the border into Brazil's northwestern Roraima state. They were  were driven back by an angry mob that rampaged through their makeshift tent following rumours a local shopkeeper had been brutally beaten by migrants.

 

Threat for the entire continent, says Temer

Temer said that the situation threatens the harmony of practically the entire continent."

"Brazil respects the sovereignty of other states but we have to remember that a country is only sovereign if it respects its people and looks after them," he added in an ominous warning to Maduro.

The United Nations says some 2.3 million Venezuelans are living outside their homeland, with 1.6 million of those having left since 2015.

Oil-rich but over-reliant, Venezuela is in a fourth year of recession brought on by a crash in oil prices in 2014. Some 96 percent of the country's revenue is generated through crude.

The exodus has strained Venezuela's neighbours, Colombia and Brazil in particular, but also other countries hosting thousands of migrants such as Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

Like Brazil, Peru has seen outbreaks of anti-Venezuelan xenophobia.

"It's not just Brazil enduring the consequences, but Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and other Latin American countries," Temer said in a televised address.

"That's why we urgently have to find the way to change this situation."

Some 60,000 refugees are in Brazil, while Peru recently tightened its border controls on Venezuelans after seeing more than 400,000 enter the country.

Temer didn't reveal how many soldiers would be deployed to Roraima, but Defense Minister Joaquim Silva e Luna said "troops are already in place" at the border.

Security Minister Sergio Etchegoyen warned that Brazil "needs to discipline" the influx of migrants.

 

Brazil ready to settle $40 million electricity debt to Venezuela

Meanwhile, Brazil said it was negotiating with Caracas to avoid Venezuela's state electricity provider Corpelec turning off the lights in Roraima over a $40 million unpaid debt.

Brazil can't pay it because of European Union and United States sanctions against Venezuela.

Brazil's Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes told AFP the country wanted to settle its debt but was struggling to find "a financial path" without breaking "the restrictions and sanctions applied by Europe and the United States" against Maduro and his government.

Nunes said Brasilia has proposed an "exchange of accounts" since Venezuela is indebted to Brazil "far more than the $40 million we owe the company."

Any electricity cut would not only hit hard the small and impoverished state of Roraima, but also the thousands of Venezuelans who have fled there, thus exacerbating their already precarious situation.

Brazil has studied potential short and long-term solutions for Roraima's electricity but those are both costly and harmful to the environment, while there is also the possibility of inciting a territorial conflict with indigenous people in the area.