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Amid Violence, Brazil Decides Not to Close Its Border With Venezuela

After an unprecedented outbreak of violence in a border town that has become the main entry point for Venezuelan migrants, the Brazilian government on Monday ruled out closing the border.

Brazilian Institutional Security Minister Sergio Etchegoyen told reporters that closing the border between Brazil and Venezuela would be illegal, and that it would not help ease tensions in the border town of Pacaraima.

Over the weekend, residents of the northern city of Pacaraima gathered to protest a camp of Venezuelan migrants in the city. As townspeople shouted at the migrants through bullhorns, the protest took a violent turn. As the New York Times reports, demonstrators burned tents and chased migrants back across the border and into the hills. One person took a bulldozer to the Venezuelans' dwellings. As the violence settled, it was estimated that over 1,200 Venezuelans had fled back across the border, fearing for their safety.

In the past year, Venezuelans have flooded into Brazil, seeking refuge from the hyperinflation and economic collapse in their home country that has made basic necessities like medicine and food unavailable. Brazil has accepted tens of thousands of Venezuelan economic refugees, and over two million Venezuelans have dispersed abroad, including hundreds of thousands into neighboring Colombia, as Pacific Standard reported in April.