Venezuela Refugee Influx to Brazil Cannot Be Solved by Military Means – Expert
Photo: Captura de pantallaOpinion02:08 19.02.2018Get short URL
Brazil is set to declare a state of emergency as tens of thousands of Venezuelan refugees cross the Brazilian border fleeing an economic and political meltdown. Radio Sputnik discussed the impact of the Venezuelan refugee influx to Brazil with Mauricio Santoro, a political scientist at Rio de Janeiro State University.
Brazilian authorities said on Thursday that they intend to increase troop numbers in the northern state of Roraima in response to the ongoing crisis. The government will provide funding for infrastructure as well as humanitarian aid.
Radio Sputnik: How significant is the influx of Venezuelan refugees and what social and economic impact has it had?
Mauricio Santoro: The social impact is very concentrated in the state of Roraima, which is a part of the Amazon region, and it is a very small state, so the population of the capital of Roraima, the city of Boa Vista, is now more or less 20 percent Venezuelans. This is incredible; we are not used to this kind of situation in Brazil.
RS: How are authorities in the region dealing with the problem?
Mauricio Santoro: The state of Roraima is very small; it does not have enough resources to cope with the problem. So it basically needs the help and the support of the national government. This is not an easy issue because Brazil is facing a severe economic recession, but the federal government is trying to help, especially in terms of health and public security. These are important solutions to the humanitarian crisis, but at the same time we must take care to not transform the Venezuelan situation into a problem that can only be solved by military means. I mean, we are talking about a social problem, an economic problem, and not all the tools [to address the crisis] are in the armed forces.
RS: Has there been any response from Venezuelan government?
Mauricio Santoro: Yes, the relationship between Venezuela and Brazil is not good at the present moment, the governments are on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, and Brazil was part of the movement that suspended Venezuela from Mercosur, the regional bloc in South America. So the dialogue is not good, Venezuela expelled the Brazilian ambassador and vice versa. We must find a solution, or at least a way to go back to dialogue, at least a way to go back to the negotiation table, because we must somehow find the way to receive these Venezuelans in Brazil, to make them keep in touch with their families in Venezuela. It’s a very serious humanitarian crisis.
RS: Brazil President Temer suggested moving some of the migrants to other South American countries. What is your take on this approach?
Mauricio Santoro: Most of the refugees in Brazil live in the big cities of the southeast, in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, because the cities concentrate the best jobs, the best economic opportunities, and Brazil does not have refugee camps. So, with Venezuelans remaining in Roraima, if they [Venezuelans] remain in the Amazon [regions], they are not going to face the same kind of possibilities that their colleagues in the southeast can enjoy. So I think it’s a good thing if they come to the southeast, but it’s not something that may be imposed on them. They must have free choice to decide where they want to remain.
RS: You mentioned that relations between Brazil and Venezuela are strained. What should be done to bring the two sides to the negotiation table?
Mauricio Santoro: The best solution would be for both governments to realize that they have at least a minimum common interest in managing this refugee crisis, because it’s a regional problem. It’s not just about Brazil or Venezuela, it’s also about Colombia, it is also about some countries in the Caribbean, which are also receiving an influx of Venezuelans. So in a spite of the political differences of Venezuela and its neighbors, it’s necessary to find some common ground to cope with the situation.
RS: What measures could be proposed to resolve the refugee crisis?
Mauricio Santoro: We may negotiate a deal that the migrants to Brazil or to the other countries may face better opportunities in the job market, that they don’t need, for example, to apply for refugee status, which in Brazil is something that can take more than three years. They can be granted automatic permission to live in other neighbor countries to Venezuela.
It is a really serious situation right now, and we are not used in South America to this kind of crisis. So, we must find solutions, we may have to invent ways to deal with that.
The opinions expressed are those of speaker alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik News.