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Colombia, Brazil tighten border controls as crisis drives Venezuelans out

Colombia and Brazil plan to tighten border controls with Venezuela, seeking to reduce the flow of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans leaving their country reportedly due to economic hardship.

Both Brazil and Colombia said on Thursday that they would take measures to control the growing inflow of Venezuelans across their borders, including the deployment of more troops to the borders and the suspension of new daily entry cards for Venezuelans.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday that he would impose stricter migratory controls and deploy 3,000 new security personnel along the frontier, including 2,120 more soldiers.

In a visit to Cucuta, a Colombian border city of about 670,000 inhabitants, Santos said his government would strictly prosecute any unlawful behavior by Venezuelans.

He said Colombia was spending millions of dollars to support the refugees, whose number in Colombia increased by 62 percent in the second half of 2017 to more than 550,000.

Brazil’s Defense Minister Raul Jungmann, who was also visiting a border town in his country on Thursday, said the government would deploy more troops and start relocating tens of thousands of Venezuelan refugees who have already crossed the open frontier.

“This is a humanitarian drama,” said Jungmann. “The Venezuelans are being expelled from their country by hunger and the lack of jobs and medicine. We are here to bring federal government help and strengthen the border.”

Oil-rich Venezuela, once one of the wealthiest nations in the region, has now been plagued by a growing economic crisis that includes hyperinflation, and food and medicine shortages.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro says the economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States are to blame for the acute economic crisis. The US has imposed sanctions on the Maduro government over accusations of human rights abuses. On Sunday, Washington said it might impose embargoes on Venezuelan oil, a major source of income for the Latin American country.

The opposition blames Maduro for mishandling the economy. The embattled Venezuelan president says the right-wing opposition is incited by the US to topple his government, hobble the country’s economy, and plunder its oil wealth.

On Wednesday, talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition and mediated by the Dominican Republic collapsed, potentially setting the country on course to heightened crisis.

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