Brazil is deploying extra troops to Pacaraima, on the Venezuelan border, after camps full of migrants fleeing Venezuela’s economic crisis were attacked and burned down over the weekend.
Tensions escalated in the town on Saturday after unconfirmed reports circulated that a Brazilian merchant had been stabbed and robbed by a group of Venezuelan immigrants. Demonstrations turned violent — locals set fire to migrant encampments and threw rocks migrants. According to the New York Times, as many as 1,200 Venezuelans fled back across the border into the country they had just left.
Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis is acute: the country has some of the world’s steepest inflation levels, making it impossible for average citizens to buy basic items like food and medicine. Millions have fled the country, creating a massive influx of refugees in neighboring Latin American countries.
Over the weekend, Ecuador cracked down on Venezuelan migrants, imposing new rules to prohibit Venezuelans from entering the country without a passport. According to the BBC, more than 4,000 Venezuelans have been arriving at the border every day. Peru will adopt a similar rule this weekend.
Not all countries are closing their doors to Venezuelans. Earlier in August, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos granted 440,000 Venezuelans two-year residency permits to work and study in Colombia. The U.S. Navy is preparing to dispatch the USNS Comfort, a massive hospital ship, to Colombia to help ease the strain the migrant crisis is placing on local health-care systems.
Venezuela's annual inflation rate measured for this afternoon on August 19, 2018, is 61,463%, another all-time high. pic.twitter.com/4ObB6vQhqZ
— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) August 19, 2018
Meanwhile, Venezuelans within the country are preparing to deal with a new set of economic “reforms” designed to cure the country’s hyperinflation — but which experts say are little more than a publicity stunt for Venezuela’s autocratic leader, Nicolás Maduro. The new “sovereign bolívar” banknotes will be released this week, along with reforms that increase the price of gas and a 3000% minimum wage increase. The reforms will devalue Venezuela’s currency by around 96 percent and will also be tied to a new petrodollar cryptocurrency.
“Bolivar’s redenomination will be like going under the knife of one of Caracas’s famed plastic surgeons,” Steve Hanke, an economics professor at John’s Hopkins, posted on Twitter. “Appearances change, but, in reality, nothing changes. That’s what’s in store for the bolivar: a face lift.”
This economic crisis have fed into a wider social crisis within Venezuela. The country’s crime rate is one of the highest in the world, and Caracas has become one of the world’s most dangerous cities. Earlier in August, Nicolás Maduro survived an apparent “assassination attempt” when a drone flew over a parade the president was attending. However, there has been speculation that incident was fabricated, and simply used an excuse for Maduro to further crack down on political dissidents.