BRASILIA, (Reuters) – The government of the northern Brazilian state of Roraima yesterday asked the country’s supreme court to halt the entry of Venezuelan immigrants, increasing pressure on the federal government to resolve a growing regional crisis.
Roraima’s request followed a weekend of violence in the state, where tens of thousands of Venezuelans have arrived in recent years, fleeing economic and political turmoil in their country.
“As a result of the grave conflicts over the weekend, the state of Roraima submitted a fastrack request … seeking the temporary suspension of Venezuelan immigration through the border,” the state government said in a statement.
The supreme court rejected a previous request by Roraima, as the Brazilian constitution mandates an open border.
The court is unlikely to agree to the new request. Still, local tensions have been mounting in the growing Latin American crisis, with countries across the region taking a tougher line against fleeing Venezuelans.
For instance, Venezuelans entering Ecuador and Peru will soon be required to show hard-to-get passports, rather than the more ubiquitous national identity cards, governments of both countries announced last week.
This weekend in the Roraima border city of Pacaraima, four people beat a shop owner and some locals said the assailants were Venezuelans, which prompted a mob to destroy the tents of immigrants camped in the streets and set fire to the belongings they left behind. Some 1,200 Venezuelans retreated back over the border, local officials said.
President Michel Temer on Sunday announced an increase from 31 to 151 in the contingent of soldiers helping keep order at the border, while also pledging to speed the relocation of Venezuelan immigrants to other Brazilian states. Temer has repeatedly refused to close the border. “The closure of the border is unthinkable because it is illegal,” Sergio Etchegoyen, Brazil’s minister of institutional security, said on Monday.
He added that soldiers were now patrolling the border, and that the situation had improved.
“There’s tension, but there’s no conflict,” he said.
Angered by a perceived lack of federal support to deal with the migration crisis, Roraima has repeatedly turned to the courts, hoping judges will force Brasilia’s hand.
Earlier in August, a federal judge in Roraima ordered the border closed until the state could create “humanitarian” conditions to receive Venezuelans, but the decision was soon overturned by a federal appeals court judge.