By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Sixteen days after the closing of the border between Venezuela and by Venezuela’s leader, Nicolas Maduro, the economy of border town Pacaraima, in the state of Roraima, is already feeling the effects of the lack of consumers from the neighboring country.
For the past two years, the trade between Pacaraima merchants and Venezuelans coming across the border, especially those from Santa Elena de Uairén, 17 kilometers away, became a significant source of revenue for the city.
“The situation is critical. Out of nowhere, they cut everything. There is a lot of merchandise and bills of suppliers are overdue. We cannot pay them,” pharmacy owner Fabiano Coelho de Moraes told government news agency, Agencia Brasil.
According to Moraes the situation of supermarkets and those who deal with perishables is even more critical. He told the news agency he has had to fire two people because of the low demand at his pharmacy.
Merchants and the population of Pacaraima have also lost access to gas stations in Venezuela. There are no gas stations in the Brazilian border city and car owners need to go to Roraima’s capital, Boa Vista, 215 kilometers away to fill up their tanks.
The price of fuel, sold in barrels, in Pacaraima has surged to R$8 per liter, five times more expensive than the amount paid in Venezuela.
In the city, about 700 Venezuelans sleep in two UNHCR (United Nation’s Refugee Agency) shelters, with more than thousand additional people living in the streets, many of whom are waiting for the border to open so they can go back home.
According to IBGE, the population of Pacaraima is estimated at fifteen thousand inhabitants, has a per capita income of R$13.5 thousand per year, and an average monthly salary of 1.8 minimum salaries.