New Details Reveal Breadth of Guatemala Human Smuggling Network

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Authorities in Guatemala have released new information on the modus operandi of an international human smuggling network that coordinated the movement of people from as far away as Africa and Asia through the country on their way to points north.

The network allegedly smuggled individuals from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh, among others, to the United States, Prensa Libre reported.

According to Prensa Libre, those being smuggled would first go to Dubai*, in the United Arab Emirates, before being flown to Brazil. From there, they would take another flight to Colombia. 

2017-09-05 Guate Trafficking Graphic

Graphic c/o Prensa Libre

The migrants were then met by members of the network who would take them by land into Panama. In Panama, a woman authorities called “Nancy” — who has also been detained — would house the migrants in a hotel before facilitating their movement by land to Costa Rica. 

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

From there, a series of handlers would verify authorities’ movements to determine what routes they could use to smuggle the migrants to Guatemala. This often meant using maritime routes along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines.

Once in Guatemala, the migrants were housed in hotels under the control of another part of the network who was in charge of coordinating the migrants’ transfer into Mexico and finally the United States. 

Operating since 2015, the structure allegedly had the capacity to smuggle 100 to 150 people every month, charging each person between $7,000 and $25,000, according to Prensa Libre. 

In June 2016, 29 members of the illicit network were arrested, nine of whom were arrested in at least six coordinated raids carried out in San Marcos in the western, border area with Mexico, and Jutiapa along the border with El Salvador, Prensa Libre reported at the time.

InSight Crime Analysis 

Guatemala remains a “paradise” for human smuggling in large part due to the availability and relative ease with which smugglers can obtain false documents such as passports. In 2013, Guatemala’s head of passports in the country’s Department of Immigration was arrested after false passports confiscated from two Colombians in a Guatemalan airport were traced back to him.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Smuggling

Moreover, unauthorized migration is worth billions for Latin America’s organized crime groups. And while Guatemala did pass an anti-smuggling law in 2015, the legislation did little to dissuade the activities of this recently dismantled network.

* This article has been corrected. An earlier version said that Dubai was the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

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