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‘Their Country Is Being Invaded’: Exodus of Venezuelans Overwhelms Northern Brazil

Since February, in collaboration with the United Nations, the Brazilian Army has been building temporary shelters with spacious white tents across the city. By the end of May, it hopes to have 11 shelters with a capacity for some 5,500 people.

Venezuelans who have been vaccinated and registered at one of the shelters may apply to be resettled in larger cities in Brazil via a military flight. But that process is off to a slow start because of funding constraints.

The United Nations recently asked international donors to pitch in $ 46 million to address the crisis during the remainder of this year, but so far it has only secured 6 percent of that goal.

On a recent morning, Mercedes Acuña, 50, said she felt blessed to have been among the first admitted into a shelter. She arrived in Brazil two months ago, rail thin, after an anguishing period during which she joined an ever-growing mob in the capital, Caracas, picking apart piles of garbage for bits and pieces of discarded food.

Ms. Acuña said she had nothing but gratitude for the Brazilians who have helped her, but she has come to agree with those who say it’s time to shut the border.

“I realize we’re all in need,” she said. “But their country is being invaded.”

At the General Hospital of Roraima, the director, Samir Xuad, says the daily patient population has surged from 400 per day to 1,000 over the past couple of years.

That requires working his employees so hard that some of them end up getting sick, too, said Mr. Xuad, adding that he had lost more than 20 pounds from the stress. Medical supplies as basic as syringes and gloves have run out, he said, and during particularly busy periods, patient gurneys line up in hallways.

“We try to make magic,” he said. “But it’s difficult.”

Outside of work, he said, residents of Boa Vista have become fearful of crime and wary of the mobs of aggressive window washers who approach drivers at stop lights.

“Roraima was a place where you could sleep with your door open at night,” he said. “That is no longer the case.”

Throngs of Venezuelan prostitutes now work the streets of a residential area that has become an ever-expanding red light district.

Source: NYT > World

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