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LATIN AMERICA | 03-03-2022 14:00

Disillusioned and 'betrayed,' Brazilians flock abroad

Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America but every year thousands of its citizens pack their bags and head for pastures new.

Brazil's vibrant mix of business, beaches and carnival has long lured expats from around the world, but a reverse migration is also in effect, as each year thousands of citizens pack up and head for new pastures.

High levels of violence, unemployment, inflation and the pandemic are main reasons why Brazilians have left Latin America's largest economy, say experts.

And the outgoing tide has only increased in recent years, alarming authorities concerned about brain drain in high-demand sectors such as technology.

Joining the exodus is Gabriela Vefago Nunes, a nurse from southern Santa Catarina state who pulled stakes for Canada last year.

"I don't know if I would say [I was] unhappy... but I couldn't see my future" in Brazil, the 27-year-old told AFP. "I already was thinking about having a family, children, and I thought: I can't do that here."

In her home town of Blumenau, Vefago Nunes was working two jobs to get by. Last September she and her husband left for Quebec, where she now works in a medical center, joining the more than 120,000 Brazilians currently living in Canada.

The relative safety of Quebec is a relief for Vefago Nunes.

"We can see the possibility to have a family. We have the security. I can see families outside not worried by violence," she said. "In Brazil, we always go out with the expectations of something bad to happen. We are very happy."

 

'Betrayed'

The most popular destinations for Brazilians are the United States (1.2 million), Portugal (276,000) and Paraguay (240,000).

There were three million Brazilians living abroad in 2016 but that figure has only increased since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took power three years ago.

The current exodus even exceeds the 1.8 million that left in the mid-1980s due to hyperinflation.

"The main reason people leave is economic: for work opportunities... earning more money, saving, buying a house," said Gabrielle Oliveira, a migration specialist and professor at Harvard University. "People have lost confidence and feel betrayed by their own country. They think: 'I gave so much and received nothing in return.'"

Whereas those that left in the 1980s were mostly wealthy, Oliveira says the current migrants come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

Authorities say they are mostly young men.

Mechanical engineer Marcos Martins feels lucky to have a "more successful" career than many of his compatriots but nonetheless he plans in April to swap "stressful" Rio de Janeiro for Lisbon.

"One of the motivations for going abroad is to have the possibility of earning more for the same or less effort," the 58-year-old said.

 

'Not coming back'

Portugal offers tax advantages for Brazilian businessmen or pensioners, says publicist Patricia Lemos, who launched a company in 2018 to help her compatriots make the same move to Portugal.

"Here a 50- or 60-year-old can find work. In Brazil, they can neither find work nor even sell popcorn," she said.

A move to Europe is also facilitated by the fact many Brazilians have Portuguese or Italian nationality through ancestors.

Compounding concerns over the exodus is a recent projection that the population will age dramatically.

The over 65s will represent more than 40 percent of the population in 2100, compared to 7.3 percent in 2010, according to the government's Institute of Applied Economic Research.

The proportion of under 15s will drop from 24.7 percent to nine percent.

"It is something that could make many things more difficult, because more and more people are retiring and there are fewer of a productive age," said Oliveira.

In Sao Paulo, nurse Ricardo Vieira de Arruda, 33, is learning French in the hope of moving to Canada.

"I'm thinking about going and not coming back," he said. "There is not the same quality of life in Brazil as abroad. Here, if you have money you have a good quality of life, but if you don't then you have nothing."

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by Rodrigo Almonacid in São Paulo, with Anne-Sophie Thill in Montreal & Florian Plaucheur in Rio, AFP

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