Brazilian border town tires of Venezuelan refugees

1 / 2
In this file photo taken on February 24, 2018 Venezuelan Warao indigenous woman Yulen Moraleda, 33, gives milk to one of her new-born twins at the Pintolandia shelter in the city of Boa Vista, Roraima, Brazil, on February 24, 2018. (AFP)
2 / 2
Venezuelans wait in a queue in front of the Brazil Federal Police Office in the Venezuela-Brazil border, at Pacaraima, Roraima, Brazil, on February 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 March 2018
0

Brazilian border town tires of Venezuelan refugees

PACARAIMA: The remote Brazilian town of Pacaraima is used to outsiders — tourists curious about spectacular nearby mountains — but a sea of Venezuelan refugees is pushing locals’ hospitality to breaking point.
Before, Pacaraima’s main attraction was its location near Monte Roraima in Venezuela, believed to have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Lost World” fantasy adventure.
But now the town has become a focal point for the exodus from economic collapse and political violence just across the border.
Every day, between 500 and 1,200 impoverished Venezuelans come over the frontier into Pacaraima, swamping the sleepy community.
The arrivals — designated refugees by the United Nations — sleep in the streets, cram into inadequate shelters, and are blamed by some for problems like increased prostitution.
“It’s out of control,” said Catholic priest Father Jesus Lopez, who runs a soup kitchen for the Venezuelans in Pacaraima.

Swelling Pacaraima

Refugees are estimated to have swelled Pacaraima’s population of 12,000 by a third.
But despite the increased traffic, the local economy is suffering.
“There’s a lot of movement and little money. My sales have fallen because there are fewer tourists and they were the ones who brought in money,” said Zilma Rocha, who has a kitchen serving breakfasts.
About the only people seeing an uptick in trade are the currency dealers, who sell the Brazilian real to their neighbors.
Some supermarkets are also seeing new business, with Venezuelans crossing the border just to buy food they can’t afford or find back home.
“Everything is cheaper here. Over there, 80 reais ($25) won’t buy you anything, but with that amount here you can get rice, sugar, flour, butter, soap, biscuits, juice and hygiene products,” said Jonathan do Santos, who frequently makes the trip.
“The lack of food in Venezuela has created opportunities here and our businesses are taking advantage of that,” said Ruan Silva, whose supermarket in Pacaraima is one of the few accepting the nearly worthless Venezuelan currency, the bolivar.

Desperation

Lopez, the priest, said Brazil’s government has not done enough to help communities like this prepare for the influx. But he said he understood the desperation driving the fugitives.
“These people are running from hunger, from death,” he said.
Most Venezuelans arriving in Pacaraima try to move straight on to the nearest sizeable city in Brazil’s Roraima state, Boa Vista, where much of the refugee aid is centered.
But for some, that 134 mile (215 km) trip — and the $16 taxi ride — is a step too far.
“We had planned to go to Boa Vista but things sound terrible there,” said Jose Pena, 22, who had traveled more than 930 miles (1,500 km) with his family from Carabobo in Venezuela.
“We prefer to stay here,” he said, while tending a cooking fire. “At least here we can eat.”
Abilio Mendez, 46, who traveled all the way from Puerto La Cruz on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast, simply couldn’t afford to go any further than Pacaraima.
“It’s everything left in my life,” he said, pointing to his two suitcases.
His solution for getting to Boa Vista? To set off under the punishing sun and try to walk.


France’s Nicolas Sarkozy loses bid to avoid influence peddling trial

Updated 56 min 29 sec ago
0

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy loses bid to avoid influence peddling trial

  • Sarkozy is accused of offering to help a judge win promotion
  • Sarkozy’s lawyers have previously argued that magistrates investigating the alleged secret Libyan funding exceeded their powers

PARIS: Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will stand trial for influence peddling after the country's highest court rejected his final bid to have the case thrown out, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Sarkozy is accused of offering to help a judge win promotion in return for leaked information about a separate inquiry. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The case came about after investigators used phone-taps to examine allegations that late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi funded Sarkozy’s successful campaign for the presidency in 2007.
As they eavesdropped on his calls, the investigators began to suspect the former president had offered the judge promotion in return for information on another investigation involving allegations Sarkozy accepted illicit payments from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for the same campaign.
Sarkozy’s lawyers have previously argued that magistrates investigating the alleged secret Libyan funding exceeded their powers and went on a “fishing expedition” by tapping his conversations between September 2013 and March 2014, breaching lawyer-client privilege.
He was cleared over the Bettencourt allegations.
On Wednesday, his defence team said the use in this case of wiretapped remarks gleaned in relation to a different investigation contravened a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
"These legal issues are still relevant," Sarkozy lawyer Jacqueline Laffont said. "It will be for the court to decide whether a French court can override a decision of the European Court of Human Rights."
Wednesday's ruling that the trial proceed came from the 'Cour de Cassation', which decides whether an earlier decision by an appeals court conforms with French law.