The U.S. media always focuses on the U.S.-Mexico border. With an estimated 325,000 illegal crossings, the brutal violence from drug cartels, the militarization by U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. military, and the wacko militias around Arizona, Mexico’s 2000-mile border with the U.S. gets all the attention.
But Mexico is facing it’s own crisis in its southern frontier with Guatemala. The Guatemala-Mexico border is a porous border that feels more like a no-man’s land than an international crossing. It’s a place that is also violent and more dangerous for migrants than anything that exists along the northern border.
As Mexico’s drug cartels move into Central America, the Guatemalan-Mexico border is suffering such an unprecedented crime wave, that the Guatemalan government has actually removed it’s federal police from the southern border provinces of Huehuetenango and San Marcos.
Mexico’s president elect, Enrique Pena Nieto has said he will be creating a Mexican Border Patrol agency for the Guatemala-Mexico border, where approximately 20,000 migrants entering from Guatemala into Mexico en route to the U.S. are kidnapped and held as organized crime groups try to extort money from their families.
Mexico Pena Nieto to hype security at Guatemala-Mexico border
According to statistics cited by the Mexican newspaper, Milenio, 400,000 migrants enter Mexico illegally en route to the U.S., but only 20 percent make it all the way. Many of them remain in Guatemala-Mexico border where they live in poverty. Much of the violence in Mexico’s southern border is similar to the violence in the northern border as the Sinaloa and Zeta cartels vie for control of drug routes.
The Zetas, Mexico’s most violent organized crime group charges about $2,500 for safe passage to the U.S. from Guatemala. The Zetas is also the group that is believed to be behind the murder of 72 migrants in August 2010. The bodies were found at a ranch near the Texas border.
According to Pena Nieto’s transition cabinet’s coordinator for migration issues, Arnulfo Valdivia, the plan is to create a border patrol and modernize check-points to keep out the bad elements in a border area that is rife with crime and corruption.
Earlier this year, the U.N.’s International Narcotics Control Board released a report saying there has been a surge in drug related violence in Central America as Drug Cartels have shifted their operations there. Subsequently, local gangs and international drug trafficking cartels have turned the region into one of the most violent places in the world. The ‘Northern Triangle’ of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have the highest homicide rates in the world. Ninety percent of cocaine shipped from South America passes through Central America on its way to the U.S.
A 2010 article in The Washington Post quotes El Salvador’s defense minister saying that as Mexico’s military presses the cartels, the more the cartels will turn to Central America for a safe haven.
According to news reports the Zetas drug cartel have set up training camps in remote regions of Guatemala. The country has become a paradise for criminals because of the high level of impunity, corruption and the availability of military weapons.
Migrants journey to US from Mexico, a long and dangerous one
The violence and poverty has caused many Central Americans to immigrate to the U.S. illegally. But to get to Mexico’s northern border they have to pass through Mexico, a long and arduous trip that is usually accomplished by jumping on freight trains heading north. According to The Mexican National Human Rights Commission, 1,600 migrants are abducted every month in Mexico, and are subject to abuse, rape, theft and even death. Often, these abuses come at the hands of Mexican security forces.
Will Pena Nieto’s new border patrol help? At the Guatemala-Mexico border, just like the U.S.-Mexico border, the problems will not go away as long as there is violence and few economic opportunities for the people of Central America, and the U.S. remains a beacon of economic prosperity and security.