The governments of Mexico and Guatemala have announced a new border program to protect migrants crossing into Mexico from Central America, as both countries attempt to combat the exploitation and mistreatment of migrants by the region’s criminal groups.
Speaking alongside Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina on July 7, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto outlined a Southern Border program designed to increase security and protect human rights. The program includes initiatives to organize border checkpoints and strengthen security cooperation between Mexican and Guatemalan authorities to combat criminal groups attacking migrants, reported El Universal.
Under the Southern Border program, migrants from Guatemala and Belize will be eligible to receive a free visitor card allowing them to remain in four of Mexico’s southern states for a period of 72 hours.
In addition, the plan includes a regional initiative to provide specialized attention to the large number of unaccompanied minors currently flooding into Mexico on their way to the United States.
InSight Crime Analysis
Migrants traveling through Central America and Mexico en route to the United States often become the victims of criminal organizations. In addition to being extorted, migrants have been kidnapped, trafficked, and used as drug mules by criminal groups like the Zetas. There have also been recent reports that factions of El Salvador’s Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang are extorting and kidnapping migrants in Mexico’s Chiapas state near the Guatemalan border.
Even with increased security measures, migrants will still be at risk of exploitation, not only from criminal groups but also from those charged with protecting them. In the past there have been cases of Mexican officials selling migrants to criminal groups, and the Southern Border program does not appear to contain specific proposals to combat such corruption.
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The border program will also likely complicate Mexico’s relationship with its northern neighbor. The United States has seen a recent surge in unaccompanied children attempting to cross the Mexican border, many of them driven by the deterioration in security in parts of Central America. This has prompted a backlash from both anti-immigration sectors and from those outraged at the conditions the children had to endure in the United States, and so the US government is unlikely to welcome measures designed to facilitate the safe passage of more migrants from Central America into Mexico.