The official Brazil-Venezuela border stayed closed for 78 days on the Venezuelan side, upon orders from Nicolás Maduro, exacerbating people’s suffering due to violence and lack of food and medicine.
“The flow of Venezuelans stayed basically the same after the border reopened, as they were still coming to Brazil via alternative routes while it was closed. However, the path through the official border simplified the transit of those in search of refuge, as well as food and medicine, sold in Brazilian cities,” said Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) Colonel Carla Beatriz Medeiros de Souza, chief of Public Affairs for Operation Shelter, a humanitarian logistics task force EB coordinates. Operation Shelter provides rapid response to Venezuelan migrants. The operation has triage stations and shelters in Pacaraima and Boa Vista cities, in Roraima, a Brazilian state that shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Venezuela.
The Bolivarian National Guard (GNB, in Spanish) blocked Highway BR-174, connecting Brazil and Venezuela, on February 21, 2019. The border reopened to people and vehicles on May 10. The border closure, upon orders from Nicolás Maduro, was meant to stop the delivery of basic supplies to the Venezuelan people coming from a Brazilian humanitarian campaign in cooperation with the United States.
Faced with their country’s increasing crisis, Venezuelans followed trails through the jungle around the blocked highway, putting their lives at risk. Reuters news agency reported that GNB soldiers extorted Venezuelans, charging the passage to alternative routes bound for Brazil at about $12 a head. “Wearing Venezuelan uniforms, they blatantly demand money, even to cross by foot. They are taking advantage of us,” said Yeral Garate, an immigrant Reuters interviewed.
According to Operation Shelter, a daily average of 600 to 700 Venezuelans crossed into Brazil from January 2019, until the border closure. The numbers barely wavered during the official blockade since the “situation in Venezuela really forces people to leave the country,” said Allana Ferreira, from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Roraima.
As of June 2019, the flow of Venezuelans crossing the Venezuela-Brazil border remains the same. In Pacaraima, Operation Shelter has a temporary shelter with a capacity of about 600 persons. There are 11 shelters in Boa Vista that can welcome about 6,000 people. All shelters are full.