Migrants Sold to Zetas at $800 Apiece: Court

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A Salvadoran man who sold illegal migrants to Mexico’s criminal group, the Zetas, for $800 apiece has been sentenced to four years in jail, in a case that sheds lights on the workings of the human trafficking chain.

A regional court found Jose Ricardo Urias guilty of human trafficking, reported La Prensa Grafica. He will be jailed in his native El Salvador.

Urias, the case revealed, charged migrants $4,500 per person for passage to the United States, the newspaper said. This fee was divided into three parts, said prosecutors: the first installment paid in El Salvador, the second in Mexico and the rest when the migrants crossed the US border.

SEE ALSO: Modern Slavery and Refugees

However, Urias was also part of a network that took migrants across Guatemala then sold them to the Zetas upon arrival in Mexico, for $800 each. One victim recounted being handed over, then forced by the Mexican organization to cross the US border via the Rio Grande carrying sacks of marijuana. The migrant was forced to make the crossing twice, while gang members demanded money from his relatives in the United States in return for his safe handover. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Human smuggling and trafficking typically involve a complex chain of different buyers, sellers and facilitators in the purchase and exploitation of human beings. This case illustrates some of the links: the migrant willing to pay large sums hoping for a new life abroad; the local “coyote” figure entrusted with coordinating that journey; contacts facilitating transport across a neighboring country; criminal contacts extorting victims’ families.

Moreover, it illustrates how easy it is for typically desperate migrants to fall victim to trafficking once they set off on their journey, putting their lives into the hands of people whose incentives are solely financial. 

SEE ALSO: Target: Migrants

The power wielded by Mexican criminal organizations within their borders, combined with the high profits at stake, has led them to diversify into human smuggling and human trafficking. The Zetas have been particularly aggressive, partly due to their territory-based model in which they have a stake in all criminal activities in their areas of operation. 

Kidnapping or buying migrants and forcing them to carry out criminal operations have become part of their modus operandi. 

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