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?
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?
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.
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