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Friday, July 12, 2024

US Intensifies Battle Against Human Trafficking in Darién Jungle

The United States government announced on Tuesday that it will intensify its fight against human trafficking in the inhospitable Darién jungle between Colombia and Panama, one of the routes used by migrants attempting to reach the North American country.

The US Departments of Justice and Interior reported that they will extend a specialized unit in combating human trafficking, created in 2021 and which has operated in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico, to this vast jungle, which spans 266 km in length and 575,000 hectares.

“With today’s announcement, we are extending our law enforcement efforts to the Darién – one of the most dangerous migrant crossings in the world – and deploying reward programs like those that have brought down drug lords to pursue traffickers,” said US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in a statement. “To those trafficking people through the Darién, know this: the United States government is coming for you,” she added.

At the same time, the State Department announced that it will offer up to 8 million dollars for any information leading to the capture of traffickers in the Darién, particularly the leaders of the narco organization Clan del Golfo.

Inhospitable Jungle

The Darién, a dense jungle bottleneck on the border between Colombia and Panama, has become in recent years a corridor for migrants from South America trying to reach the United States through Central America and Mexico.

In 2023, more than 520,000 people crossed that region, despite facing dangers such as wild animals, fast-flowing rivers, and criminal gangs that rob, rape, and kill migrants.

As of last May, over 150,000 migrants had crossed this route in 2024, according to Panamanian immigration authorities. Most are Venezuelans, along with Haitians, Ecuadorians, and Colombians. There are also Asians, mainly Chinese, and Africans.

Panama’s President-elect, José Raúl Mulino, who is set to take office on July 1, has promised to “close” the Darién and deport migrants who enter the country through that jungle, but the construction of a wall has been ruled out.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported in mid-May that more than 30,000 migrant children had crossed this inhospitable jungle in the first four months of 2024, an increase of 40% compared to the same period the previous year.

It is estimated that around 2.8 million undocumented migrants enter the United States each year.

In the midst of a US election year, immigration has become a key campaign issue, with Republican candidate Donald Trump criticizing his rival, President and Democrat Joe Biden, for encouraging an “invasion” of migrants.

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