Venezuelan Refugee ‘Favelas’ Pop Up in Brazil

The cable car over the Alemao favela in Rio de Janeiro is no longer running
AFP Yasuyoshi Chiba

Brazil is observing the development of a growing number of poverty-stricken favelas, or slums, as thousands of Venezuelans emigrate amid the country’s unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis.

Argentine news outlet InfoBae has detailed the plight of Venezuelan migrants, many of whom are victims of xenophobia and sexual exploitation and living in their own favelas, a Brazilian term used to describe mountainside slums.

One of the most prevalent examples is the city Boa Vista, where around 40,000 Venezuelans have arrived in recent years on top of the city’s stable population of 300,000 people.

According to the report, many of the young migrant girls are forced to sell sex in exchange for food, while human traffickers are also pushing people into effectively slave-labor jobs for little or no salary.

The city’s mayor, Teresa Surita, has said the city is “collapsing” due to the growing demand for housing, health, and education coming from Venezuelans.

“Before the streets (of Boa Vista) were quiet but now they are full of poor Venezuelans,” said Surita, adding that she had requested additional resources from the federal government.

Roraima Senator Romero Juca, a close ally of Brazilian president Michel Temer, backs this position, warning it was “not sustainable to continue this way with Venezuelans sleeping everywhere.”

“The flow is undoubtedly increasing, although we cannot make forecasts about the future because the arrival of Venezuelans relates to the current political situation,” said Gustavo Frota Simoes, a professor at the Federal University of Roraima.

Most Venezuelans are fleeing the worsening humanitarian, economic, and political crisis in their country, where the monthly minimum wage has collapsed to under one dollar a month while millions of people are starving and without basic living necessities under the socialist regime of Nicolás Maduro.

Things are also only set to worsen with the calling of a presidential election in April, which Maduro is widely expected to rig after successfully banning the main opposition parties from running.

Colombia has also been at the forefront of the Venezuelan crisis, with thousands of Venezuelans crossing the border town of Cucutá every day to get hold of basic resources or permanently emigrate.

Authorities in Colombia have already drawn up plans for refugee camps similar to those in the Middle East, and have called on the international community to aid their humanitarian efforts. An estimated 550,000 Venezuelans have emigrated to Colombia in the past two to three years.

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