In front of an improvised dock, the man who sees everything that happens there rests. For those muddy waters in front of us, like mustard-colored, they cross every day from Mexico to Guatemala – and vice versa – bags of Mexican beans, La Lechera condensed milk cans, rice, toilet paper, vehicle parts, vehicles sometimes, marijuana , cocaine and people. Last Sunday, a day after the Mexican government celebrated the arrest of 800 migrants in Veracruz, by this passage of the Suchiate River, about 600 meters wide, which divides Central America from the last country before arriving in the United States, crossed a group of 100 Cubans. And while this Thursday meets in Mexico Mexican President Lopez Obrador, along with El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, will be crossing dozens, Salvadorans included. On wooden sticks tied to two tires, which drag young people sinking their oar in the bottom, the illegal crossing of hundreds of migrants does not stop.
On this side of the river, not a single uniformed man awaits them, despite the fact that the López Obrador government promised to increase surveillance on the southern border. Yes do dozens of Waiters -The ones that move the rafts-, families waiting to return to Guatemala for 20 Mexican pesos, tricycle, a chingo of mosquitoes, boxes to supply the stores of Tecún Umán (Guatemala), and a few food stalls whose menu varies little: rice, chicken, beans. It's Paso del Coyote. The name, painted by the municipal government in one of the Mexican accesses to the river, does not pretend that what happens there, the illegal traffic of the human and the material, is not part of the daily life of those who inhabit the border.
This river is not afraid of Donald Trump or Lopez Obrador. A step used by those who populate the banks from long before a border bridge was built with their respective officials and procedures. It is the point most traveled by those who flee from violence and hunger on their way to the United States (Central Americans, Haitians, Africans, Hindus, Syrians), in one of the busiest borders in the world. And for these muddy waters, of calm current, just arrived this Wednesday morning, in just one hour and only at this point of the river, a group of 15 young people from Bangladesh, a family of seven Hondurans and two Cuban twenty-year-olds.
-Look, when the caravans began, the bosses of the business were worried … The Central Americans preferred to travel in groups, making misery to their family and doing chaos there, instead of bringing a pollero to take care of them. Now the thing is calm, everything is still normal.
The man on the dock, sitting in a wooden chair, impassive to the bustle of the water front in front, explains that the business of the coyote has returned to the Suchiate. The mafias have regained their power, despite these days of militarization of the border. This rafter, who nobody on this Mexican shore knows him by name, but by his nickname, prefers that in this text no detail appears that can betray him. He has crossed people from one side to the other and has sent them to Veracruz hidden in gasoline pipes. "You just have to know who to report to (pay)." He calls it directly "corruption": without detours, without remorse, it is the hand that feeds the business.
-But, what happens now with the National Guard, the Federal Police, the roadblocks …?
-Look, it's so easy. The one who looks at combis or the taxis is the migration officer. He knows who is going to pass by and at what time, before they gave him his money. Then he does not see, or goes to the bathroom and does not stop. The military there are only taking care, those of the migra are the ones who decide who does and who does not.
The Government of Lopez Obrador committed two weeks ago with the United States that in a month and a half would contain the wave of immigration that promises this year to break all records. According to official data it is estimated that more than 800,000 people cross illegally through Mexico. In exchange for achieving what seems to be impossible, Trump would stop threatening to impose tariffs on imported Mexican products, whose application could destabilize the economy of this country. One of the most specific measures was to announce the shipment of some 6,000 National Guard troops – a new body designed to combat drug trafficking and violence – and of them, about 2,400, will be deployed in the more than 960 kilometers that it shares. Mexico border with Guatemala.
Some, around 400, have already been installed at various points on the road that leads to Tapachula, the municipal seat and the largest municipality after crossing the river. None of those who have been displaced for this mission have yet been trained with the criteria of the new corps, they are soldiers who have been placed a bracelet with the initials of the National Guard. And they rest under some bridges of this section, next to a migration van with two officials and four agents of the Federal Police. No one waits on the riverbank.
These days, the migrant detention operation that has calmed the tense relations between the United States and Mexico, one of the biggest diplomatic crises between the two countries, consists these days of a migration official who stops any type of passenger transport.combis, buses and taxis-, open the doors and ask for the passport to the darkest, the shortest, at least bathed.
The group of 15 Bangladeshi who crossed the river on Wednesday morning all climbed into a public transport van. They took that combi in Ciudad Hidalgo (Mexico) and at the checkpoint, about 25 kilometers from the border, the authorities stopped it. The door opened, the official took a quick look and, although none of them spoke Spanish and they were all loaded with backpacks, the agent closed the doors. The migrants went on their way. "Yes, the young lady saw them, but they go directly to the 21st century (the migrant detention center in Tapachula)," explains a careless military officer who guards the checkpoint. In this prison complex they process an exit service and are not usually deported. The Central Americans, however, know that if they go there they end up in a bus heading to El Salvador and Honduras.
What is the criterion then to stop people in this military checkpoint? Is it only for Central Americans? What are the rules to ask for a passport to some people? The ones that the migration agent that supervises decides. At this point of the military checkpoint, five Central Americans were arrested within three hours. All men and a boy. Those captured are sent to the XXI Century, the largest immigration detention center in Latin America, which has exceeded its capacity for months and keeps migrants crammed in cells waiting for a procedure or their deportation. The former head of the National Institute of Migration, Tonatiuh Guillén, who resigned last week in the face of the migration crisis, acknowledged to this newspaper that the complex was overcrowded. And the National Commission of Human Rights denounced that at the end of April there were more than 2,000 people, in a place built for 960.
The increase in military and police presence on the southern border has restored old migration practices. Condemned to clandestinity, migrants must resume the most dangerous routes they had avoided with caravans. In addition to leaving all their savings to pay some coyotes who can sell them at the first exchange, the risks of this path range from assaults, rapes of women, extortion, kidnapping, mass murders and mutilations of arms or legs when trying to climb The Beast (the train). In Huixtla, a key municipality on the migratory route to the north, 40 kilometers from Tapachula, nine local policemen accused of torture, homicide and extortion have been arrested on Wednesday.
The images of a few months ago of migrants walking exhausted on the roads of Chiapas have faded. Hundreds of Central Americans with an empty stomach and dehydrated are no longer sleeping in the center of Tapachula. But they die of hunger in other less traveled places. They are on the roads, hidden in trailers, in gasoline pipes, in brothels, clinging to the train. And by the Suchiate River, unperturbed by geopolitics and diplomatic crises, they cross many more every day. A month and a half and two thousand soldiers to stop the networks of this exodus seems, from this corner of the southern border, that it is very little time.
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