Choosing the Suicide Weapon
There is news that yet another caravan of migrants seeking asylum in the US has started its journey in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. This besides exacerbating President Trump’s campaign rhetoric will also prove to deepen division among leaders of the democratic party aspiring to become the presidential nominee. But even more important than those campaign related effects is the fact that many migrants choosing to walk their way into the US are simply choosing a suicide weapon.
About 30% of them will never make it to the U.S. or even to Mexico. The road is paved with extortion both from criminals as well as from agents for law enforcement in their home country and in the other Central American countries and Mexico. Everywhere they have to surrender a possession to make the next mile.
When they have given up all their possessions, then they become servants to organized crime through drug cartel recruitment. Servitude comes in many packages, the most obvious is prostitution for both women and men. There also is kidnapping. This takes the form of attacks to safe houses for migrants by bandits working for organized crime . They seize migrants and then contact their families back home to ask for ransom which goes from US$500 to US$3,500 per migrant.
“Since 2011, data from Mexico’s National Migration Institute has documented 1,034 kidnapping victims in Tamaulipas – 75% of all migrant kidnapping victims in the country,” according to the New York Times. Women and minors each account for more than a quarter of the victims. Then comes recruitment to enter criminal bands such as MS-13 or El Barrio which are given haven by either corrupt Mexican authorities or drug trafficking gangs.
Yet another form of servitude is established by coyotes or polleros which are the equivalent to a Sherpa who guide migrants through the roads and passages that are less protected. These Sherpas are part of criminal bands and usually take between $7,000 and $10,000 per migrant. They usually charge 40% of the agreed price before initiating the route . The remaining 60% is charged once migrants establish themselves in the U.S. and begin earning a salary. Those that default on this loan seldom survive. It usually takes a migrant between five and seven years to repay the loan. Most migrants share living quarters with other journey companions until the loan is paid.
Finally, there are two jobs that tie migrants to organized crime. These are drug distribution and transportation and spying for the criminal gangs. When law enforcement identifies transportation systems and the manpower managing them, organized crime simply annihilates them before they can be apprehended and talk to law enforcement.
About 70% of migrants make it to a stable job in agriculture or services. Nearly half of the approximately 3.5 million Central American immigrants residing in the United States as of 2017 came before 2000. 60% made the journey through polleros.
Over the past three decades the dangers of the journey from Central America to the U.S. have increased tremendously. And this perhaps has reduced the proportion of migrants reaching the U.S. safely.
One reason for this escalation of danger is Mexico’s slow but effective transformation into an organized narco state. The country has been taken over by organized crime through political patronage; corruption and outright extortion which includes life threatening methods of control.
The process is more visible in those territories that are passage for drugs inbound to the U.S. Indeed, two drug corridors have emerged and have consolidated along the Mexican coastline bordering the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. There yet is another crime expressway that crisscrosses the country through the center and is enabled by a railway dubbed the Beast.
These regions are completely controlled by the drug cartels that have also created private armies, bought the judiciary and created effective intelligence gathering outlets. Add to this mix the fact that corruption in the Mexican police is pervasive and runs deep into the force hierarchy and you have a land that operates along the same principles as any Mafia state.
Migrants of course are prime recruiting material for these agents who use them as modern days slaves. And as economic stalemate extends itself in the region more people in Central America and Mexico look north for employment and safety. Migrants in the end are the product of economic stalemate and brisk growth of the illegal economy.
This development seems to have taken by surprise the U.S. think tanks and Latin American governments that clearly did not envision the great inroads that organized crime was going to make over the past two decades.
Today the genie is out of the bottle and is spreading havoc in the region. For the U.S. government it is raining unwanted immigrants. For Central America organized crime is taking away freedom and economic progress. Mexico on its part is being devoured by a wave of violence that claims more casualties than the war in Syria. In short, everyone is losing except organized crime.
The clock is thus ticking for the U.S. as leader of the free world to realize that these developments merit a hemispheric treatment. One that brings together law enforcement resources while facilitating prosecution of the mafia leadership and drying out organized crime’s sources of economic gain. Or maybe it is too late to do anything effective, like it is too late to save a significant proportion of migrants from an assured death.
Published by Laht.com Monday, January 20, 2020
“The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author”
Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O’Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador. You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.