For Many Fleeing Venezuela’s Chaos, New Trouble in Brazil

In desperation, thousands have left their homeland to seek a better life to the south. But at Brazil’s border, more problems await.

About 500 members of the Warao tribe live at a concrete shelter outfitted with hammocks and tents in Pacaraima, Brazil. Crowding and unsanitary conditions have contributed to widespread disease.

Fish and taro were the only food Milagros Ribero, 35, and her family could find in their little community in the Orinoco River Delta, home of the Warao, the second largest indigenous group in Venezuela. In June they made the 500-mile journey to Brazil.

“We came searching for food,” Ribero says near her tent in the Janokoida shelter, recently set up for the Warao in the Brazilian border town of Pacaraima.

Each day hundreds of struggling Venezuelans arrive at the border, carrying stuff on their backs and documents in their hands. The journey has become more harrowing as Brazilians have begun to lash out at the influx of refugees pouring into their country, putting a strain on limited services. After recent attacks, some Venezuelans have crossed the border back into their home country. Those seeking a better life in Brazil have sold TVs, cell phones, clothes—everything they own—to pay for the trip. They hope to find food, medicine, safety, and jobs in Brazil, basics they no longer can get in their home country because of its free-falling economy, staggering inflation, high rates of violence, and chronic food and medicine shortages. It’s the fallout from a breathtaking collapse in Venezuela, which rode an oil boom from 2004 to 2014 to become one of Latin America’s richest nations, then saw its fortunes tumble amid falling oil prices, soaring government deficits, and persistent corruption.

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