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Brazil to send troops to border town after attack on Venezuelan migrants

Brazil to send troops to border town after attack on Venezuelan migrants
A still from an AFP video shows residents of the Brazilian border town of Pacaraima destroying belongings of Venezuelan immigrants during an attack on their makeshift camps Saturday. (Isac Dantes / AFP/Getty Images)

The Brazilian government plans to send troops to the border town of Pacaraima after residents there attacked Venezuelan migrants.

The government-run Agencia Brasil news organization said Sunday that the Public Security Ministry plans to send at least 60 soldiers from the elite National Force to Pacaraima. Calls to the ministry for details went unanswered.

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Pacaraima is a major border crossing with Venezuela, where economic and political turmoil has driven tens of thousands to cross into Brazil over the last few years.

Authorities said violence erupted Saturday after a local store owner was robbed, stabbed and beaten in an assault blamed on four migrants.

Groups of angry residents then roamed the town hurling rocks at immigrants and setting fire to their belongings.

The army’s Humanitarian Logistics Task Force in Roraima state said Sunday that at least 1,200 immigrants fled Pacaraima to escape the violence and returned to Venezuela.

The Roraima state government estimates that more than 50,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border, occupying existing shelters or sleeping in tents, plazas and streets. The influx was nearly equal to 10% of the state’s population of 520,000.

On Saturday, Claudio Lamachia, president of the Brazilian Bar Assn., said the violence in Pacaraima “exposed the humanitarian drama afflicting our neighbors who are trying to improve their lives and survive.”

“The state of Roraima does not have the conditions to shelter all the immigrants,” he said.

The crisis has prompted state authorities in recent months to try to limit services to Venezuelans and temporarily shut the border, but the federal government and high courts have curtailed attempts to do so.

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