Mormon tycoon helps Venezuelans start over in Brazil

Sao Paulo   -   Brazilian tycoon Carlos Wizard Martins has never set foot in Venezuela. But the Mormon businessman is on a mission from God to help thousands of desperate migrants crossing the border to restart their lives.

At 62 and nearing retirement from businesses including Taco Bell and Mundo Verde that have turned him into a self-described billionaire, Martins is living on the Brazil-Venezuela border where he runs a volunteer network assisting migrants settle in other parts of Brazil.

“I often feel like an employee in a call center,” Martins tells AFP during a recent business trip to Sao Paulo, smiling as he shows the WhatsApp chat group he uses to coordinate with other volunteers.

Martins and his wife arrived in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state, in August 2018 on a mission from the Mormon Church to help Venezuelan migrants start over in Brazil.

So far, Martins and his team have helped relocate 3,000 migrants from Roraima to other states offering more job opportunities.

A similar government-run program has helped more than 8,700 migrants since February 2018.  Like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, Martins studies the profile of new arrivals to match them with the most suitable location in Brazil.

Migrants receive assistance such as food, clothing and a place to stay until they find work. In 90 percent of cases this happens within two months, he says.

The eldest of seven children of a driver and a seamstress, Martins knows what it is like to arrive in another country with nothing -- at 17 he went to live in the United States for two years. 

To critics he says: “You can’t lose perspective. The poor have always existed and will always exist, but a refugee arriving here with only the clothes on their back, it’s a situation of high vulnerability.”

More than 120,000 Venezuelan migrants are estimated to be living in Brazil. Many more have crossed the border and moved to other countries since 2016 when Venezuela’s economic crisis deepened.


APPUnited Nations, United States, July 11 (AFP/APP):Thousands of universities around the world on Wednesday declared a “climate emergency” and committed themselves with the United Nations to fighting climate change, in an effort to mobilize their students.

In a letter, the representatives of more than 7,000 educational institutions on six continents promised to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, or 2050 at the latest.

They also pledged more resources for “action-oriented” climate change research and skills development, and to develop environmental education both on campus and through outreach programs.

“What we teach is shaping the future,” said Inger Andersen, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), in a statement welcoming the initiative, which was presented at a ministerial meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York.

“Young people are increasingly at the forefront of calls for more action on climate and environmental challenges, and initiatives directly involving young people in this critical work are a valuable contribution,” she added.

The initiative leaders -- which include Strathmore University in Kenya, Tongji University in China, France’s KEDGE Business School, Glasgow University, California State University, Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates and Mexico’s University of Guadalajara -- hope to have more than 10,000 academic institutions signed and committed to the plan by the end of the year.

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