Profiting from the Tragedy and Hope of Others

On Sept. 11, 12, 15 and 18, the National Civil Police arrested a number of Haitian migrants in Esquipulas, Chiquimula; San Agustín Acasaguastlán, El Progreso; and Escuintla. All of the migrants were traveling through the country on the way to the United States without the necessary entry permits. At that point, everything was apparently normal and routine. However, the fact is that there are more travelers from this country and other regions entering through the Agua Caliente border; they arrive in Esquipulas practically under the noses of police agents, soldiers and personnel from the National Institute of Migration.

Unfortunately, there are also cases of police bribery, according to some of the migrants who spoke with reporters from Prensa Libre and Guatevisión in Esquipulas, the faith capital of Central America. Because these practices go unpunished, the capital of faith has become the capital of human trafficking. The accounts of these travelers who lack documentation include descriptions of hardship and poverty, not only in their home country but along the way, including extortion, and payment to coyotes who drive them in vehicles with polarized windows to avoid being stopped at police checkpoints.

It is necessary to note that while covering this story, the Prensa Libre and Guatevisión press car was stopped at a police checkpoint. Our reporters identified themselves, presented their credentials and were allowed to continue to the Agua Caliente border. However, when they returned just an hour later, they were stopped again and asked for documentation; this time, it is worth noting that the agents photographed the documents.

Last Monday, international news agencies reported on the crisis of thousands of Haitian immigrants on the border between Mexico and the U.S. We have to ask what path they took to that border. One of the photographs revealed signs of passage through Guatemala: a Haitian mother holds her sleeping son, resting on a bag made of traditional textiles with the name of our country clearly visible.

Indeed, the journalists’ tour might confirm the presence of migrants from several countries, including Haiti, near hotels and ATMs in downtown Esquipulas. This raises questions about the identities of state agents involved in this type of trafficking. If they aren’t involved, how do you explain why so many people were admitted and faced a layover? Why do vehicles operate from the border with complete freedom if the border is considered to be sensitive area given the heavy movement of people without documentation?

If high-level authorities in the Defense and Interior Ministries know anything about this activity and have not taken action, it is worth questioning. If they claim to have no knowledge that this is happening on the border, they aren’t doing their job with regard to security. Today’s print edition, the Guatevisión news broadcast and our digital platforms contain photographs and descriptions of the findings, with the goal of launching effective internal investigations and strengthen monitoring, including surveillance of “blind spots.” If this activity is happening in a relatively guarded zone, how much worse will it get in other areas where such human trafficking networks operate, networks that profit from the tragedy of other people who wear the expressions of helpless families in search of uncertain luck?

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