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Friday, July 12, 2024

Panama and US Pledge Cooperation on Darien Migration Crisis

Right-wing politician José Raúl Mulino, who takes office as Panama’s president on Monday, and US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas expressed the urgency to “closely cooperate” to resolve the migration crisis in Panama’s inhospitable Darien jungle.

During a meeting held in Panama City, Mulino reaffirmed his commitment to “work as a team with the United States to find effective solutions to this situation,” according to an official statement.

The meeting also “addressed the need to strengthen international cooperation mechanisms in the areas of security and migration,” the statement added.

On Friday, Mulino announced that he would sign an agreement with the United States to repatriate migrants crossing the Darien jungle, with US support. According to the president-elect, the document will be signed during Mayorkas’ visit to Panama for the inauguration ceremony.

“I hope to sign a respectful and dignified agreement with the United States so that the two countries can begin the repatriation processes for all these people accumulated here,” Mulino said without giving details, at a migrant center in Lajas Blancas, in the province of Darien, about 250 km east of Panama City.

The Darien jungle, covering 575,000 hectares, has become a corridor for migrants from South America trying to reach the United States. In 2023, more than 520,000 people crossed this route, despite facing dangers such as swift rivers, wild animals, and criminal groups.

Mulino promised during his campaign to close the jungle border, but later softened his stance and said he would deport migrants entering through the Darien.

To address the migration issue, Mulino will also meet with his Colombian counterpart, Gustavo Petro, who arrived in Panama on Sunday to attend the inauguration ceremony.

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