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US Supports Program to Settle Venezuelan Migrants in Brazil

2020-1-31

United States and United Nations agencies launched a program this week to help tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants settle in Brazil.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) are leading the effort.

USAID officials said the agency will provide $4 million to support the program. The money will help Venezuelan migrants get official employment, business training and language classes. Venezuela is a Spanish-speaking nation while Brazil is a Portuguese-speaking country.

Trucks carrying medicine, rice and powdered milk, part of a combined shipment of U.S. and Brazilian aid, head from Boa Vista, Brazil, into southern Venezuela, Feb 23, 2019. (Courtesy - Gregory Holliday)
Trucks carrying medicine, rice and powdered milk, part of a combined shipment of U.S. and Brazilian aid, head from Boa Vista, Brazil, into southern Venezuela, Feb 23, 2019. (Courtesy - Gregory Holliday)

About 4.6 million Venezuelans have fled the political and economic crisis in that country. Almost 900,000 have crossed the border into Brazil since 2018. The Brazilian government says they are still entering Brazil at an average rate of 500 a day.

Most have continued on to other Spanish-speaking countries. But 264,000 Venezuelans have applied to stay in Brazil. As a result, social services in the Brazilian border state of Roraima have struggled to deal with immigrants.

The program supported by USAID and the IOM will work with the Brazilian military’s efforts to move Venezuelan immigrants to cities further south. Migrants will have more opportunities for sustainable work and a new life there.

The program is called Economic Integration of Vulnerable Nationals from Venezuela in Brazil. John Barsa, USAID assistant administrator for Latin America, launched the program in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia. He said it is not a long-term answer, but provides needed help until stability returns to Venezuela.

He added, “That will only happen when the illegitimate Maduro regime is no longer in power.” U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration supports opposition leader Juan Guaidó rather than Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

USAID said it has already provided nearly $15 million to support Venezuelans in Brazil.

The Trump administration lowered the number of refugees from any country it will permit to resettle in the United States in 2020 to 18,000. That is the lowest level in the history of the modern refugee program.

Army Colonel George Kanaan oversees the border processing operation. He said since April 2019, Brazil has moved 27,222 Venezuelan refugees and migrants to southern cities.

Jose Angel Perez and his family are among those refugees. Perez was an oil truck driver for state oil company PDVSA in Anaco in eastern Venezuela. He is hoping the new program will help find him work in Brazil.

He said, “I need a job, so does my wife. We plan to stay. Change will not come quickly in Venezuela.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Anthony Boadle reported on this story for the Reuters news service. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

stability –n. the quality or state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change

illegitimate –adj. not allowed according to rules or laws

regime –n. a form of government; a particular government