Brazil's Temer blasts Venezuela for refugee exodus

Brazil's President Michel Temer reacts during a ceremony on a new National ID Card in Brasilia, Brazil, February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer criticized the leftist government of neighboring Venezuela on Friday for leading that country into a crisis that is causing an exodus of refugees into northern Brazil.

Brasilia has called for democratic reforms by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has consolidated power as his country’s economic crisis deepens with shortages of food and medicine.

But in a radio interview, Temer went further and blamed Maduro’s government for the humanitarian crisis that has led to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing the country, mainly into neighboring Colombia.

“We are locked in a diplomatic confrontation,” Temer said on Radio Guaiba.

“We disagree with the way things are going in Venezuela that has brought thousands of refugees to Roraima,” he said of the northern state bordering Venezuela, where an estimated 40,000 refugees have arrived since last year, straining public services in the city of Boa Vista.

Colombia and Brazil tightened border controls with Venezuela on Thursday as both nations grapple with a mounting influx of desperate migrants fleeing hunger and political upheaval in Venezuela’s crisis.

Brazil will deploy more troops to strengthen the border and start relocating Venezuelan refugees to other Brazilian cities, Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said in Boa Vista.

The worsening refugee situation led Temer to renew Brazilian criticism of Maduro, a senior government official said, asking that he not be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

“There is a new sense of urgency because the situation has not ceased to deteriorate, the influx of refugees has increased, and the Maduro regime is exporting problems to its neighbors,” the official said.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassú and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Peter Graff and Jonathan Oatis