Brazil Sends Troops to Venezuelan Border amid Tensions between Natives and Venezuelan Economic Refugees
A refugee camp in Colombia | Representational Image (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Brazil government has had to resort to army deployment to pacify the unrest near its border with Venezuela. Residents of the Brazilian border town of Pacaraima rioted and drove out Venezuelan immigrants from their improvised camps, amid growing regional tensions.

The latest spate of tensions began over the weekend, hours after a local merchant was robbed and severely beaten in Pacaraima, an incident which is being blamed on Venezuelan refugees.

Dozens of locals then attacked the two main immigrant makeshift camps, where an estimated 1,000 immigrants are living. Villagers burned their belongings leading Venezuelans to cross the border back into their home country. Shots were fired, stores were shuttered and debris littered the streets of Pacaraima.

Some Venezuelans reportedly reacted to the attack by vandalising a car with Brazilian license plates.

Three Brazilians were hurt in the clashes, a spokesman for military police said. No information was immediately available on the state of the Venezuelans involved.

The public security ministry then swung into action and sent a contingent of 60 troops which arrive in the area on Monday. The clashes in Brazil took place amid an increase in robberies and violent incidents in the city of 12,000 people that locals blame on immigrants, while the government points to a lack of resources to address the situation and calls for the closure of the border.

Brazilian federal police, in charge of immigration, estimates that about 500 Venezuelans cross over to Brazil every day.

Tensions are rising in Latin America over migration triggered by the crisis in Venezuela.

Peru and Ecuador are halting immigrants at the border by requiring would be border-crossers to show their passports — which many lack — instead of simple identity cards. These border control measures go into place this week.

Colombia is facing the worst of the refugee pressure as it is now hosting almost one million Venezuelans. Colombia and Venezuela share a porous 1,380-mile border that is laced with dozens, if not hundreds, of illegal crossing points. The United Nations estimates that 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the crisis in their country looking for work and to escape poverty.