Cri­sis-hit Venezue­lans leave for Brazil in search of new life

Muscat Daily - - OPINION -

Far­ías

Clock­wise from top left: Delia left Venezuela to be able to bet­ter pro­vide for her chil­dren; Jorge wants to stay in Brazil; Wil­liam Camero crosses the bor­der ev­ery three days to buy sugar for his ice-cream par­lour; a Venezue­lan man hangs a sign which reads ‘Look­ing for job’

out­side the federal po­lice sta­tion from six o'clock in the morn­ing.

Newly ar­rived Venezue­lans wait in line to get reg­is­tered so they can work in Brazil.

Ac­cord­ing to the Brazil­ian federal po­lice, in the first half of this year, 6,438 Venezue­lans asked for asy­lum in the state of Ro­raima. In 2016 as a whole, the ture, how to pro­vide them food, so they wouldn’t die of mal­nu­tri­tion,” she says, squeegee in hand.

“To pay for their medicine, if they’re ill. In Venezuela, they don't give you any­thing,” she says of the dif­fi­cul­ties of get­ting hold of even ba­sic med­i­ca­tion and food in Venezuela.

‘Don’t look back’

In the cen­tre of Boa Vista, by the town’s food mar­ket, Clau­dia (not her real name) is wait­ing on the street corner, laugh­ing and jok­ing with friends.

She is wear­ing a vest top with the words: ‘Don't Look Back’. It could al­most be a mantra for what she is go­ing through.

The 22 year old was a stay-ath­ome mum in the city of Maturín, in Venezuela. She came to Boa Vista a year ago and her mother and chil­dren re­cently joined her.

She is one of a grow­ing num­ber of Venezue­lans work­ing in the area of town lo­cals call Ochenta (Span­ish for 80). It refers to the price in the Brazil­ian cur­rency that peo­ple pay for one es­cort ser­vice. It is about US$25.

But with Brazil’s econ­omy in the dol­drums, Clau­dia of­ten has to ac­cept less.

Still, be­ing an es­cort in Boa Vista of­fers her a bet­ter life here than the one she had back home in Venezuela, she says.

“We have more ac­cess to food be­cause in Venezuela, there isn’t any,” she says.

Her mother knows what she does. “She ac­cepts it be­cause it’s how we can make a liv­ing.”

Un­der pres­sure

Brazil­ian state au­thor­i­ties are un­der pres­sure. In De­cem­ber, they pro­vided a gym­na­sium to house in­com­ing Venezue­lans.

With their be­long­ings in plas­tic bags, en­tire fam­i­lies are perched on the con­crete stands along the wall.

At night, more than 300 peo­ple sleep on the floor.

Ós­car Ro­dríguez is from Venezuela’s Warao in­dige­nous com­mu­nity. With his four chil­dren and his wife, he sleeps un­der a piece of black tar­pau­lin in the shel­ter’s yard.

He, too, wants to find work in Boa Vista, but in this town of 300,000 peo­ple, and with few Venezue­lans speak­ing Por­tuguese, op­por­tu­ni­ties are hard to come by.

“We can’t see an end to this cri­sis in Venezuela in the near fu­ture,” says Doried­son Ribeiro from Ro­raima Civil De­fence.

“We’re afraid more and more peo­ple will keep com­ing and it will get to a point where we won’t be able to help any­more.”

The num­ber of Venezue­lans ar­riv­ing is show­ing no sign of eas­ing.

And while for the hun­dreds of peo­ple in this shel­ter the fu­ture is un­clear, they say that it still beats the al­ter­na­tive back home in Venezuela.

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