Brazil president promises funds to address Venezuelan influx

SAO PAULO — Brazil's president promised Monday to do whatever it takes, including sending all necessary funds, to help a northern state cope with an influx of Venezuelans fleeing hunger and unrest.

Tens of thousands of people have poured into Roraima state in recent years from Venezuela, as the government there has moved to consolidate power and the nation's economy has entered a tailspin. The influx has strained services and caused tensions, and state officials have been increasingly clamoring for help.

President Michel Temer interrupted his Carnival holiday to fly to Roraima on Monday and promised a federal task force that would work with the state to address the problems.

"I will not rest until we have solved the problems of Roraima," Temer said at a meeting with the governor and various state and federal officials. "All necessary resources will be sent to solve this Venezuelan question."

Temer said some migrants could be moved to other states but that Brazil would not turn its back on those fleeing misery.

Defense Minister Raul Jungmann later added that the armed forces would set up a field hospital at the border and work with local authorities to build triage centers, according to the G1 news portal.

In the capital of Boa Vista alone, officials estimate there are some 40,000 Venezuelans — making up about 10 percent of the city's population — and many are living in the streets. There are concerns that the migrants are taking jobs away from Brazilians in an already lackluster economy. Last week, a man set fire to two residences where Venezuelans were living, injuring five people.

The government of Roraima presented federal officials with a list of demands last week, and Temer's administration agreed to double the federal security forces at the border to 200. The state has also asked for more vehicles and equipment for its own security forces.

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