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Brazilian President Temer sends troops to Venezuela border

August 29, 2018

Brazil's President Temer has signed a decree that will send troops to Roraima state on the Venezuela border. Homicides have jumped in the area and riots have broken out between locals and Venezuelan migrants.

Brasilien Michel Temer
Image: Getty Images/AFP/E. Sa

Brazil's President Michel Temer signed a decree on Tuesday to send the army to Roraima, a state on the border with Venezuela to "guarantee law and order." 

New data has shown a surge in killings in the area which means the state now has the highest homicide rate in the country.

Between January and June, there were 27.7 homicides for every 100,000 people in, Roraima according to data from the Violence Monitor. Rio Grande do Norte, with 27.1 killings per 100,000, had the second-highest rate, followed by Ceara and Acre, both with 26.   

Over the past three years, Roraima, like many Brazilian states, has been the scene of an intense battle between criminal organizations for territory and influence.

During the same period, it has also been the major entry point into Brazil for Venezuelans fleeing political and economic turmoil at home. Both have put pressure on the state's institutions and contributed to a feeling of instability.

In a Tweet, Temer said sending in the military was an action aimed at providing "security for Brazilian citizens but also Venezuelan immigrants fleeing their country."  

No rule of law

"What we see is that there is a clear feeling of the fragility of local institutions to deal with the fear of people, who are starting to think the state has no rule of law," said Bruno Paes Manso, a researcher who is with the Center for Violence Studies at the University of Sao Paulo. The center participated in putting together the Violence Monitor.

"This leads people to defend themselves ... you have this perception: people are arriving from every corner, crime dominates, and homicides multiply in these contexts," he said.

Despite the well-known pressure on Roraima, Manso said the high number of homicides was surprising. The rate for all of last year was 25.1 per 100,000 - and Roraima wasn't even in the top 10. In 2016, it had the third-lowest homicide rate in the country.

In a short televised address Tuesday night, Temer announced that he had signed a decree to send in the armed forces to restore order and security in the state. "The problem of Venezuela is no longer one of internal politics. It is a threat to the harmony of the whole continent," Temer said.

The decree authorizes the deployment starting on Wednesday and will last until September 12. It could be extended. Temer did not say how many troops he was sending.

The monitor registered more than 26,100 killings in Brazil in the first six months - an indication that the number of homicides could fall this year after a particularly bloody 2017. But this year's data does not include complete figures from three states.

Dealing with Venezuelan refugees

Top immigration officials from Peru, Colombia and Brazil held a meeting in the Colombian capital Bogota for a summit to discuss how to cope with the influx of refugees. 

There are close to 1 million Venezuelans now living in Colombia and more than 400,000 in Peru, the countries said in a joint statement after the meeting on Tuesday. Just 178,000 of those in Peru have legal permission to remain or are being processed.

In Brazil, Roraima, which is poor and isolated, has struggled to deal with the influx from Venezuela, where the collapse of institutions and an economic crisis worse than the Great Depression has driven 2.3 million people to flee, according to U.N. estimates.

Brasilien Grenze zu Venezuela
Poor and isolated Roraima state in Brazil is flooded with refugeesImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Peres

Tens of thousands of people have come to Brazil, largely to Roraima. Many are living on the streets of the state's cities and towns. The influx of people has been linked to a measles outbreak in Brazil, with at least 300 cases in Roraima.

"Brazil is not confronting a migratory crisis. Roraima is confronting a migratory crisis," the state's governor, Suely Campos, wrote in an op-ed in the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper this past weekend.

The federal government in "Brasilia's disregard for the largest humanitarian crisis in the Americas, in coordination with its allies in the state, is criminal," she wrote.

av/bw (AFP, Reuters)

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