Disappointed and “betrayed” — Brazilians flock abroad


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Sao Paulo (AFP) – Brazil’s vibrant mix of business, beaches and carnival has long attracted expats from around the world, but reverse migration is also taking place, as thousands of citizens pack their bags and head for new pastures every year.

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

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

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

“I don’t know if I would say (I was) unhappy… but I didn’t see my future” in Brazil, the 27-year-old told AFP.

“I was already thinking of having a family, children, and I said to myself: I can’t do that here.”

In his hometown of Blumenau, Vefago Nunes worked 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 of having a family. We have security. I can see families on the outside who aren’t worried about the violence,” she said.

“In Brazil we always go out with the expectation that something bad will happen. We are very happy.”


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 who left in the mid-1980s due to hyperinflation.

“The main reason people leave is economic: for work opportunities…to earn more money, to save money, to buy a house,” said Gabrielle Oliveira, a migration specialist and professor at Harvard University.

Marcos Martins, 58, plans to emigrate to Portugal, joining thousands of fellow Brazilians who are heading abroad due to economic uncertainty at home MAURO PIMENTEL AFP

“People have lost faith and feel betrayed by their own country. They think, ‘I gave so much and got nothing in return.'”

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

Authorities say they are mostly young men.

Mechanical engineer Marcos Martins considers himself lucky to have a “more successful” career than many of his compatriots but nevertheless plans to swap “stressful” Rio de Janeiro for Lisbon in April.

“One of the motivations for going abroad is to have the opportunity to earn more for the same effort or less,” the 58-year-old said.

“Don’t Come Back”

Portugal offers tax benefits to Brazilian businessmen or retirees, says publicist Patricia Lemos, who started a business 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’t find work or even sell popcorn,” she said.

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

Worries about the exodus are compounded by a recent projection that the population will age dramatically.

People over 65 will represent more than 40% of the population in 2100, against 7.3% in 2010, according to the government’s Institute for Applied Economic Research.

The proportion of under-15s will fall from 24.7% to 9%.

“It’s something that could make a lot of things more difficult as more people retire and there’s less of a productive age,” Oliveira said.

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

“I’m thinking of leaving 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, you don’t ‘ve got nothing.”


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