Jair Bolsonaro. Photograph:( Reuters )
The Venezuelan immigrants 'are not merchandise or some product that can be returned,' he said after attending a military anniversary ceremony.
President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said Saturday his government would not send back the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have sought refuge in Brazil from the economic breakdown in their leftist-ruled homeland.
The Venezuelan immigrants "are not merchandise or some product that can be returned," he said after attending a military anniversary ceremony.
His comments followed a suggestion by the governor-elect of the state of Roraima that a "return program" be developed to deal with the influx of migrants that have poured into the poor border state from Venezuela.
Bolsonaro said the Venezuelans "are fleeing a dictatorship supported by the PT, Lula and Dilma, and we can't leave them to their fate."
Bolsonaro, who takes office in January, was referring to former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, who had close ties to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.
"Venezuela cannot be treated as a democratic country," he said.
The United Nations says at least 2.3 million people have fled Venezuela's economic and political crisis since 2015.
More than 100,000 have entered Brazil over the past three years, with three quarters of them requesting immigration papers from Roraima's state government.
The Brazilian government has allowed them to enter, but has ordered the military to step up security in the area.