Stricter border rules and mob violence have greeted some migrants as they look for refuge from the chaotic situation in Venezuela.
The mass exodus is ratcheting up tensions in countries such as Peru, Ecuador and Brazil even as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announces the introduction of “a magic formula” to get his country back on track.
Brazil announced Sunday it would deploy 120 men from the country’s national force to the border state of Roraima, where hostility towards Venezuelan migrants recently boiled over.
On Saturday, a mob of Brazilians attacked a group of Venezuelans in a border city and destroyed a migrant camp after a local business owner was robbed by Venezuelans, according to Brazil’s state run news outlet, Agencia Brasil. Around 1,200 Venezuelan migrants fled back over the border after the attack.
A judge had earlier ruled to prohibit the entry of all Venezuelans to the state but the decision was overturned by Brazil’s supreme court.
The Brazilian government has said it is committed to helping Venezuelans and will continue to try to spread migrants throughout various states in the country.
The Venezuelan government issued a statement asking the Brazilian government to “take measures to safeguard and secure” Venezuelan citizens, “their families and belongings.”
Ecuador and Peru announce restrictive measures
Venezuelan citizens wait in line to cross to Ecuador at the Rumichaca international bridge in Ipiales, Colombia, on August 11, 2018.
Meanwhile, a new rule came into effect in Ecuador Saturday requiring Venezuelan citizens entering the country to present a valid passport. Previously, Ecuador accepted other forms of identification.
CNN was present at the border and spoke to some of the migrants. Many were caught by surprise, having started their journeys before the measure went into effect.
“My family is fragmented, destroyed. We’re no longer together,” one Venezuelan migrant told CNN Sunday. “My son is in Peru, my daughter in Chile, I have yet another daughter who’s on her way to Poland. Give me a break! When will I get them all together again? My wife is in Venezuela. The situation is dire.”
On Sunday as Ecuador’s Interior Ministry relaxed the identification rule slightly, saying on Twitter that the law allows for children and adolescents to not present their passport “as long as both parents have it and show their relationship of filiation and kinship.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says more than half a million Venezuelans have crossed into Ecuador via Colombia since the start of the year and that the number is accelerating with some 30,000 entering in the first week of August alone.
The government has declared a state of emergency in human mobility in three provinces, meaning it can assign additional resources to Venezuelans.
Ecuador is both a destination and transit point for Venezuelans escaping the humanitarian crisis in their own country. Some of the migrants are also heading towards Peru and countries further south.
The Peruvian government has followed Ecuador’s lead, announcing Saturday that beginning August 25, Venezuelan citizens who want to enter Peru can do so only with a valid passport.
Once land of opportunity
It is a reversal of fortunes for Venezuela, which was once the richest country in Latin Americaand a destination of choice for those fleeing turmoil in the region during the 1970s and 80s.
Colombians fleeing civil war, Peruvians fleeing the political and economic instability under Alberto Fujimori and Chileans fleeing the Pinochet dictatorship sought refuge in the oil-rich country, which was seen as a land of opportunity.
An economic crisis is driving the current mass migration out of Venezuela, where residents now live with food shortages, overcrowded hospitals, inflation and political turmoil.
For now, the exodus shows no sign of slowing.
Venezuelans filed 117,000 asylum claims in the first six months of this year, surpassing the total number of claims made in 2017, according to the UNHCR.
“The exodus of Venezuelans from the country is one of Latin America’s largest mass-population movements in history,” UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said in a statement. “Many of the Venezuelans are moving on foot, in an odyssey of days and even weeks in precarious conditions.”
What is Venezuela’s government doing?
On Friday, President Nicolas Maduro announced new economic measures to go into effect starting Monday — — including a 60-fold increase in the minimum wage that will being to take effect on September 1.
Maduro said the government will provide assistance on the minimum wage increase for 90 days but employers are nervous they won’t have enough money to pay their staff.
The President also announced that the government was removing five zeroes from the Venezuelan currency — dropping the Bolivar’s value more than 90%. The currency will be pegged to a cryptocurrency called the petro.
Venezuela plans to roll out a new currency Monday, the “Bolivar Soberano,” which will be worth 100,000 “old” Bolivares and was created to simplify transactions in the hyperinflationary Venezuelan economy.
Maduro made a Facebook Live address on Sunday, saying, “We are going through a re-balancing process.
“This does not happen overnight,” he said. “This re-balancing process will be developed. This is a magic formula that is truly impressive. That we discovered through our own thoughts and analysis.”
A bank holiday was declared Monday out of the blue, with banks remaining closed even as the new currency was to take effect.
Explaining the measures on national television Sunday night, Maduro said: “This is a really impressive, magic formula that we discovered while studying with our own, Venezuelan, Latin American-rooted thinking.”
The latest announcements caused merchants to close their doors over the weekend, not knowing how to reflect the new currency in their pricing. Shoppers, on the other hand, rushed to supermarkets and gas stations that remained open.
The International Monetary Fund says Venezuela’s inflation may hit 1 million percent by the end of the year.
Amidst the chaos, there have been attempts on Maduro’s life. Two high-ranking military officerswere detained earlier this month in connection with an alleged drone attack against Maduro. The government said drones armed with explosives flew toward the president as he spoke at a military parade.
Maduro has accused opposition groups of orchestrating the August 4 failed attack and claimed the “financiers and planners” of the operation live in Florida.
Truckers angry at rising fuel prices have blocked major roads across Brazil since May 21, preventing the delivery of goods to supermarkets and gas to petrol stations.
Citing concerns about lack of medicine and basic goods, President Michel Temer said Sunday that his government would subsidize the cost of diesel for the next 60 days, exempt empty trucks from tolls and introduce a minimum freight fare for truckers.
Temer said diesel prices at the pump would be cut by 0.46 reals per liter (roughly $0.13) for the next two months. He said prices would increase just once a month after that. Prices had risen to 3.6 reals ($0.98) per liter before the strike, with five increases in the week before truckers took action.
On Thursday it had looked like the strike action was drawing to a close after Brazil’s government said it had reached an agreement with truckers’ unions to eliminate some taxes on diesel, while Petrobras agreed to lower the price by 10%.
But truck drivers continued to block roads, saying they wouldn’t move until Brazil’s Congress had approved the tax changes and Temer subsequently announced that the Armed Forces would be deployed to clear the blockades.
The government said its security forces were escorting fuel trucks to key infrastructure such as hospitals.
“The government was always open to dialogue and we were able to sign an agreement with the leaders of this movement,” Temer said Sunday. “We spent the week trying to meet the truckers’ grievances, but we were also worried about all the Brazilians that faced difficulties these days.”
“We understand the natural difficulties truckers endure in their jobs, but we became increasingly worried by what was happening in the health sector. We received incredibly worrisome statements here regarding the lack of medicine and basic goods,” he continued.
The measures announced by Temer Sunday were published in the government’s Official Diary.
According to web portal G1, this was one of the prerequisites made by the truckers’ union in order to end the strike.
“If it’s in the Official Diary, our recommendation is for the concessions to be accepted,” Autonomous Freight Transporters Union (Sinditac) president Carlos Alberto Dahmer told G1.
Political Affairs Minister Carlos Marun said that subsidizing diesel would cost the federal up to 10 billion reals (roughly $2.7 billion).
The strike has choked Brazil’s economy, with Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and financial hub, declaring a state of emergency Friday.
Many of the city’s petrol stations had already run out of gas by the weekend and there were long lines at others, journalist Shasta Darlington reported on CNN’s “Quest Means Business” programfrom Sao Paulo Friday.
The city cut its bus services by half Saturday and expected to stop them entirely by Monday night as fuel stocks ran out, a city hall spokesperson said. Trash collections in the city had also been suspended.
Local governments in many other cities reduced public transport to conserve fuel. In Rio de Janiero less than a fourth of normal bus services ran Saturday, a city official said. Food in public schools was only guaranteed until Monday, according to Rio’s City Hall.
Meantime eight airports run by state airports authority Infraero were without fuel late Sunday, the operator said in a statement.
Hospitals are operating with limited inventory and as of Saturday only six had adequate supplies to ensure health care for four days, Marun said, according to a government statement.
Marun said the President was concerned about the possibility of loss of life and the government was “doubling down on the application of fines against truckers with medical cargo.”
In 2016, Petrobras announced it was changing its pricing policy and would adjust its diesel and gas prices relative to the global market. Crude oil prices have soared this year, with consumers impacted at the pumps.
Brazil’s Federal Union of Oil blamed the increase in prices on measures taken by the government that aimed to “dismantle Petrobras.”
The blockade comes just months before presidential elections set for October. Temer replaced Dilma Rousseff as Brazil’s president after she was impeached in 2016.
One poll by Datafohla in April suggested 70% of respondents disapproved of Temer’s government and just 6% approved of his leadership.
Temer has said he is not running for reelection. A number of presidential candidates, from both right and left-wing parties, have also spoken out in support of the striking truckers.
Findings of “Operation Red Card,” as it’s been dubbed by police, include that the bidding process was rigged to benefit giant construction companies Odebrecht and OAS — both already implicated in massive bidding corruption scandals across Latin America.
According to a statement from police, “a great part of [the inflated price] was channeled to bribe payments and the financing of electoral campaigns.”
Bidding fraud, overbilling, misuse of public funds, corruption and money laundering are all under the investigation’s umbrella, and one of the arrest warrants was issued to a former governor of Bahia, Jaques Wagner.
According to state-run news agency Agencia Brasil, Wagner’s house was raided by police on Monday morning.
Wagner was governor of Bahia between 2007 and 2015, and is affiliated with the same party as embattled former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva — the left-of-center Worker’s Party.
In a press release, the Worker’s Party called the raid at Wagner’s house an “invasion,” and accused Brazil’s judiciary of “abusing its authority to criminalize the Worker’s Party.”
This is not the first time corruption allegations threaten to taint the Olympic legacy of Rio 2016. In October 2017, Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman was arrested for his alleged involvement in an operation to buy jurors’ votes during Rio’s bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016.
For the past three years, Brazil has been gripped by a scandal which started with a state-owned oil company and grew to encapsulate people at the very top of business – and even presidents.
On the face of it, it is a straightforward corruption scandal – albeit one involving millions of dollars in kickbacks and more than 80 politicians and members of the business elite.
But as the tentacles of the investigation dubbed Operation Car Wash fanned out, other scandals emerged.
It has led to some of those who have found themselves accused claiming they are the victims of political plots, designed to bar them from office.
But what is this scandal all about? And who is it said to involve?
What is Operation Car Wash?
Operation Car Wash began in March 2014 as an investigation into allegations that Brazil’s biggest construction firms overcharged state-oil company Petrobras for building contracts.
Investigators accused directors at the firm – named the world’s most ethical oil and gas company in 2008 – of skimming the extra money off the top as a bribe for awarding the contract.
Which is bad enough – but then the Workers’ Party found itself dragged into the corruption scandal amid allegations of having funnelled some of these funds to pay off politicians and buy their votes and help with political campaigns.
Among those accused in the scandal were dozens of politicians, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – the country’s extremely popular former president, known affectionately as “Lula”.
Corruption at the highest level?
Three years after the investigation began, Lula was found guilty of the first of five charges against him: that he had been given a beachfront apartment by engineering firm OAS in return for his help in winning contracts with Petrobras.
He has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison, although he will not be jailed until the outcome of an appeal.
But Lula, who denies all charges, says the investigation and trial were politically motivated to prevent him from running for president again in the next election.
Lula isn’t the only one to have held the presidency to face investigation right now: the two people who followed in his footsteps are facing corruption allegations of their own.
The attorney general has charged current President Michel Temer – the former vice-president who took office in August last year – with receiving money from the boss of giant meatpacking firm JBS, which itself is already implicated in a corruption scandal.
The charges have been delivered to a Supreme Court judge who must now decide if the case can be sent to the lower house of parliament, which will decide whether or not to lift his presidential immunity.
Mr Temer denies all charges.
And then there are the separate allegations which saw his predecessor Dilma Rousseff – who followed Lula into office after he had served two terms –impeached in August 2016.
What led to Rousseff being impeached?
Entirely separate to the Operation Car Wash allegations, Ms Rousseff – a close ally of Lula – found herself in trouble for allegedly moving funds between government budgets, which is illegal under Brazilian law.
She argued this was common practice among presidents, but her critics said she was trying to plug deficit holes in popular social programmes to boost her chances of being re-elected in 2014.
Ms Rousseff fought the allegations, arguing that her right-wing rivals had been trying to remove her from office ever since her re-election.
But she lost – and her vice-president, Mr Temer, of the centre-right PMDB party, was put in charge until January 2019, when the president to be elected in a vote next year will take office.
However, Ms Rousseff’s supporters do posit another theory when it comes to her fall from grace: they allege that the politician’s rivals wanted her gone because she would not shield them from the Car Wash probe.
Anything else you need to know?
Yes – there is one more scandal which involves those at the highest level:Odebrecht, which has also been caught in Operation Car Wash.
The Brazilian-based construction giant, which is Latin America’s largest construction conglomerate, has admitted bribing officials to secure contracts in Brazil and other countries in South America.
One of the companies it is said to have bribed? Petrobras.
In fact, its former CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht, who is serving a 19-year prison sentence for corruption, was found guilty of paying more than $30m (£21m) in bribes to Petrobras officials in exchange for contracts and influence.
He and 76 other Odebrecht officials are giving investigators information as part of a plea deal.
Mr Odebrecht may also yet bring down another president: he says part of the $48m he donated to both Ms Rousseff’s and Mr Temer’s campaigns in the 2014 Brazilian presidential election was illegal.
This is now under investigation by Brazil’s electoral court. If fraud is found, their campaigns could be annulled, which means that Mr Temer would be removed from office.
Both Mr Temer and Ms Rousseff deny all allegations of fraud.
On 5 November 2015, an iron ore waste dam burst in the town of Mariana, Brazil. Nineteen people were killed and mining waste was dumped into the river Doce.
The river’s water has now been deemed fit for consumption but its native fish species have not reappeared.
The Brazilian government has revoked a controversial decree that would have opened up a vast reserve in the Amazon to commercial mining.
The area, covering 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles), straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para.
It is thought to be rich in gold, iron, manganese and other minerals.
From the moment President Michel Temer signed the decree in August opening the reserve to commercial mining, it was widely condemned.
Activists and celebrities voiced concern that the area could be badly compromised.
One opposition senator, Randolfe Rodrigues of the Sustainability Network party, said at the time that it was the “biggest attack on the Amazon in the last 50 years”.
Following the criticism, the government revised the decree, prohibiting mining in conservation or indigenous areas.
But a court later suspended the measure altogether, saying any change to the reserve’s status had to be considered by the Brazilian congress.
On Monday, the government decided to scrap the decree.
It said it would reconsider the issue in the future, in a wider debate.
“Brazil needs to grow and create jobs, attract mining investment, and even tap the economic potential of the region,” said the Mines and Energy Ministry in a statement.
The BBC’s South America correspondent Katy Watson says this is a victory for environmentalists and a climb-down for the government.
The former governor of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state has been sentenced to 14 years and two months in prison for corruption and money laundering.
Sergio Cabral served two terms as Rio state governor from 2007 to 2014.
He was accused of received kickbacks from construction firms in return for awarding them lucrative contracts, such as a petrochemical plant in Rio.
Judge Sergio Moro said there was not enough evidence to convict Cabral’s wife Adriana Ancelmo.
Cabral was detained in November as part of Operation Car Wash, a huge corruption investigation which has resulted in the arrest of a long list of high-ranking politicians and influential business people in Brazil.
Cabral is a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party of President Michel Temer, who is also under investigation for alleged corruption.
Judge Moro said the former governor had taken 2.7m reais ($813,000; £638,000) in bribes.
The judge said the money had not yet been found and that he suspected Cabral had transferred it before his accounts were blocked.
The former interior minister for Rio state, Wilson Carlos Carvalho, was also found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He was Cabral’s right-hand man while he was in office.
With almost a third of Brazil’s cabinet under investigation for alleged corruption, BBC News takes a look at some of the key words and names connected to the probe.
Car Wash (also known as Lava Jato in Portuguese)
Name given to the corruption investigation launched in March 2014 into allegations that Brazil’s biggest construction firms overcharged state-oil company Petrobras for building contracts.
Former president of Brazil, removed from office on 31 August 2016 for breaking fiscal laws. While Ms Rousseff was on the Petrobras board of directors from 2003 to 2010, she has never been formally accused of corruption or self-enrichment. Operation Car Wash started during her time as president, and her supporters allege that her rivals wanted her gone because she would not shield them from the probe.
Money allegedly received by politicians involved in the Petrobras corruption scheme in exchange for handing out building contracts to companies which overcharged them.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was president of Brazil from 2003 to 2011. Since he left office he has come under investigation for a number of cases of alleged wrongdoing, which he has all denied.
In July 2016, a judge ruled there was enough evidence for Lula to stand trial for allegedly obstructing justice in connection with Operation Car Wash. Prosecutors also accuse Lula of involvement in an alleged bribery scheme related to work by the construction giant, Odebrecht, in Angola. Most recently, prosecutors accused him of taking bribes from Odebrecht to help the firm win it eight Petrobras contracts.
Michel Temer took over as president of Brazil after Dilma Rousseff was impeached. Almost a third of his cabinet are now under investigation for alleged corruption. President Temer’s name is not on the list of politicians facing investigation over the Car Wash scandal. But Brazil’s top electoral court is hearing witnesses in a separate case over alleged illegal campaign financing.
The case dates back to the 2014 presidential campaign, when Mr Temer was Ms Rousseff’s running mate. The tribunal will have to decide if illegal funds were used to fund their campaign. If the tribunal’s decision were to go against him, the election result could be annulled and President Temer could be forced from office.
Brazilian-based construction giant, Latin America’s largest construction conglomerate. The firm has confessed to bribing officials to secure contracts in Brazil and other countries in the region. It has agreed to pay a fine of $3.5bn (£2.8bn). Its former CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht, is serving a 19-year prison sentence for corruption. He was found guilty of paying more than $30m (£21m) in bribes to Petrobras officials in exchange for contracts and influence. He and 76 other Odebrecht officials are giving investigators information as part of a plea deal.
Brazil’s state-run oil company and one of the biggest employers in Brazil with more than 78,000 workers on its books. At the centre of the corruption scandal which has engulfed Brazil for the past three years. Petrobras said in 2015 that its corruption costs hit $2bn (£1.6bn). Senior former Petrobras executives are serving lengthy prison sentences for corruption.
Sergio Moro, dubbed Super Moro by his supporters, is the federal judge in charge of the Car Wash inquiry. Judge Moro divides opinion in Brazil. Some admire him for his tenacity and willingness to go after the most influential politicians in the land, while others have questioned his methods such as leaking a phone call between former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the then-president, Dilma Rousseff.
Two major Brazilian companies were hit with a record $3.5 billion in criminal fines Wednesday in what authorities say is the largest foreign bribery case in history.
One of the firms, Odebrecht, a global construction company, played a key role in the corruption scandal that’s sparked Brazil’s worst recession ever and engulfed its politicians, including the last two presidents.
The fines, announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn, N.Y., resolve charges that were levied in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland against Odebrecht and Braskem, a Brazilian petrochemical firm.
“Odebrecht and Braskem used a hidden but fully functioning Odebrecht business unit – a ‘Department of Bribery,’ so to speak – that systematically paid hundreds of millions of dollars to corrupt government officials in countries on three continents,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sung-Hee Suh.
The companies are not charged with bribing any U.S. officials, but the since the scheme used U.S. bank accounts, they are being charged in federal court in the U.S. The U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn was also responsible for bringing bribery charges in 2015 against some of the top officials of FIFA, the governing body for international soccer.
The record fine is the latest twist in Brazil’s corruption scandal. Its state-run oil company, Petrobras, operated a deep bribery ring between construction firms including Odebrecht and Brazilian politicians.
Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was indicted Monday by a federal judge in Brazil on charges of alleged money laundering and corruption. Known as “Lula,” he is accused of accepting a penthouse apartment paid for by Odebrecht in exchange for contracts with Petrobras. He’s implicated in at least three other corruption cases.
Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached earlier this year. Although she was formally accused of another crime, the Petrobras scandal and the recession it helped create loomed over her impeachment trial.
Rousseff wasn’t accused of accepting bribes from Odebrecht, but many in her inner circle have been jailed on accusations they accepted bribes from Odebrecht and other firms.
Even four cabinet members of the current president, Michel Temer, have had to resign after corruption allegations tied to the bribery ring.
U.S. officials said foreign bribery poses a major risk to America.
“When foreign officials receive bribes, they threaten our national security and the international free market system in which we trade,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney. “Just because they’re out of our sight, doesn’t mean they’re beyond our reach.”
U.S. and Swiss authorities will each get 10% of the fine money, while Brazil will receive the other 80%. Braskem (BAK) will pay about $950 million. Odebrecht will pay at least $2.6 billion and as much as $4.5 billion, depending up what an independent analysis finds the company can afford.
Brazil’s biggest construction firm, Odebrecht, has admitted in the US to bribing officials to secure contracts.
The company and Brazilian petrochemical firm, Braskem, have agreed to pay at least $3.5bn (£2.8bn) to the authorities in the US, Brazil and Switzerland.
The US Justice Department said it was the largest foreign bribery case yet.
Odebrecht will pay fines of at least $2.6bn and Braskem will pay $957m for bribery across the globe.
One of the biggest examples of corruption involved Odebrecht paying bribes to officials of Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petrobras, which is itself at the centre of a huge corruption scandal.
Odebrecht executives have signed a deal to cooperate with that investigation into Petrobras – known as Operation Car Wash – naming more than two hundred politicians allegedly involved in the kickback scheme.
William Burck, a lawyer for Odebrecht, said the company was “glad to be turning the page and focusing on its future”.
Earlier in December, the company apologised for being part of corruption scandals that have already led to its former chief executive, Marcelo Odebrecht, being sent to jail for 19 years for paying $30m (£21m) in bribes to Petrobras officials.
Department of bribery’
US deputy assistant attorney general, Sung-Hee Suh, said: “Odebrecht [the firm] and Braskem used a hidden but fully functioning Odebrecht business unit – a ‘Department of Bribery,’ so to speak – that systematically paid hundreds of millions of dollars to corrupt government officials in countries on three continents.”
The US authorities said that starting in 2001, and lasting for more than a decade, Odebrecht paid $788m (£627m) in bribes to government officials, their agents and to political parties in several countries, to win business orders.
The US Department of Justice said: “The criminal conduct was directed by the highest levels of the company, with the bribes paid through a complex network of shell companies, off-book transactions and off-shore bank accounts.”
Braskem took part in the scheme and between 2006 and 2014, and paid about $250m (£201m) into Odebrecht’s bribery system, US authorities said.
The money was used to bribe politicians and their parties in Brazil as well as to officials of Petrobras.
The result, said the US Justice Department, was that Braskem obtained cheap deals when buying Petrobras materials, obtained contracts with Petrobras, and also gained sweetheart tax deals in Brazil.
“These resolutions are the result of an extraordinary multinational effort to identify, investigate and prosecute a highly complex and long-lasting corruption scheme that resulted in the payment by the defendant companies of close to a billion dollars in bribes to officials at all levels of government in many countries,” said US attorney Robert Capers.
“In an attempt to conceal their crimes, the defendants used the global financial system – including the banking system in the United States – to disguise the source and disbursement of the bribe payments by passing funds through a series of shell companies,” he added.
Braskem is jointly owned by Odebrecht and Petrobras.