Five Venezuelans Injured in Arson Hate Crimes in Brazil

The incident is the latest in a string of xenophobic attacks on Venezuelan migrants in Boa Vista, Manaus, and other northwestern Brazilian cities.

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A family of three was injured when a shed housing approximately thirty people was set ablaze. (Yolanda Mêne/Amazônia Real/2018)
A family of three was injured when a shed housing approximately thirty people was set ablaze. (Yolanda Mêne/Amazônia Real/2018)
By Lucas Koerner
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Caracas, February 12, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Five Venezuelan migrants were injured last week in a pair of early morning arson attacks in Boa Vista, Brazilian authorities report.

Last Monday, a Venezuelan couple was victim of a Molotov cocktail hurled at the porch where they were sleeping in the early morning hours, as revealed by security camera footage released by Brazil’s Civil Police. The woman received medical attention after suffering severe burns on her neck and chest.

In a separate incident, a shed housing approximately thirty Venezuelan migrants was reportedly doused in gasoline and set alight.

While only one room caught fire, a couple and their four-year-old daughter were injured, with the mother and daughter suffering second-degree burns on large parts of their bodies. All three remain hospitalized, but are no longer in critical condition.

Both attacks took place in the downtown neighborhood of Macejana.

The suspect is a Guyanese immigrant by the name of Gorden Fowler, who was detained by authorities on Saturday. Fowler, who reportedly arrived in Brazil in December, is currently homeless, undocumented, and speaks minimal Portuguese.

Forty-eight human rights organizations issued a statement Friday condemning the anti-immigrant violence, which they say, “puts in jeopardy the security and the dignity of those people who seek in Brazil protection and welcome.”

However, the Roraima state governor and the local Boa Vista municipal government have yet to publicly comment on the issue.

The incident is the latest in a string of xenophobic attacks on Venezuelans residing in Boa Vista, Manaus, and other northwestern Brazilian cities.

Human rights activists have blamed the violence on a xenophobic discourse they say is promoted by Brazilian elites to deflect responsibility for deteriorating public services.

“It’s not true that resources are lacking for hospitals or schools because of Venezuelans,” state public defender Jaime Brasil Filho told Amazônia Real.

“The elite who steals has always chosen to blame migrants or segments of society with fewer material resources or less political power for our underdevelopment when they themselves are the culprits,” he added.

As the date for October presidential elections in Brazil nears, Venezuelan migration has become an issue of national debate, with right-wing nationalist politicians promising hardline border restrictions in a bid to garner votes.

In recent years, the border region has seen a dramatic influx of Venezuelan migrants who have crossed over into neighboring South American countries as Venezuela continues in the throes of a deep economic crisis exacerbated by international sanctions.

At least 40,000 Venezuelans currently live in the Brazilian border state of Roraima, comprising 10 percent of the population of Boa Vista, according to official government figures.

In Boa Vista, the inflow of migrants has created conditions which local resident Zoe Dutka calls a “humanitarian crisis”.

“Every public place has dozens of people sleeping in it, parks, plazas, the islands between highways, the middle of traffic circles. We’re talking thousands of homeless people,” Dutka told VA.

“They do not have water, or access to bathrooms, or basic security, and they are stigmatized daily and attacks on them are frequent,” she continued.

Brazilian de facto President Michel Temer will reportedly be visiting the northern province this Monday in order to discuss the issue of Venezuelan migration with Governor Suely Campos.

Last week, the Brazilian government announced it would be doubling its security patrols along the joint border as well as relocating Venezuelan migrants away from frontier towns.

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