A ticking time bomb called Darien


By Irene Escudero |

Necoclí, Colombia (EFE) USA which grows every day and threatens to “explode”.

It is a constant, itinerant flow of people from all over the world, whole families walking together and sharing only the desire to achieve a better future at all costs, including passing through one of the most difficult border crossings. dangerous to the world: the week-long adventure through a lush, mountainous jungle that they say swallows people.

Venezuelan migrants take a photo as they prepare to board a boat to the border with Panama, in Necocli, Colombia. EFE/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda

Last year, according to figures from the Panamanian authorities, 133,726 people crossed the Darién Gap, a number that had never been recorded due to the difficulty of the journey. The numbers keep rising and in the first nine months of this year there are already 151,572.

Necoclí is the first stop on the road through the Darién. It is an Antiocan city located on the east coast of the Gulf of Urabá, in the Colombian Caribbean, where, lulled by the vallenato and salsa of the beach kiosks, the migrants rest lying on the sand while their children swim in the sea or play castles with dominoes.

Complicated situation

“The situation is difficult. This pod is going to explode in our face,” confesses a resident of Capurganá, the town that receives them on the other side of the Gulf of Urabá, almost on the border with Panama, and who knows the job well. He says that every day between 1,200 and 1,600 people pass, whereas last year, due to restrictions imposed by the Colombian government, only 650 could pass.

Since it began to receive this constant exodus of people in transit, a phenomenon that has always existed but exploded last year, Necoclí has ​​evolved. Migration is an easy matter to perceive.

Now the building of the company that manages the boats that transport migrants – which is the same one used by tourists who want to enjoy this paradisiacal corner of Colombia – is expanding: they have bought three more boats.

Migrants cook on the beach while waiting to board a boat for the border with Panama, on October 6, 2022, in Necocli, Colombia.  EFE/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda
Migrants cook on the beach while waiting to board a speedboat to the border with Panama, in Necocli, Colombia. EFE/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda

There are more hotels and informal businesses, selling food, rubber boots or changing dollars, spring up along the humble promenade where rubbish piles up at the corners and migrants walk from place to place to collect necessities for the journey through the jungle.

The 200-meter wooden plank pier now looks warily at the brand new cement pier, which was built quickly but cannot be opened because it is too high for boats.

New wave of Venezuelans

Those who pass by here have also changed. While last year almost all were Haitians, this year more than 70% are Venezuelans, some of whom board the boats humming “Pedro Navaja”, by the Panamanian Rubén Blades, when it is heard in the background.

Leonardo only got tickets on the boats on Sunday, so his family, the 40 people accompanying him, will have to wait until then on the beach.

Migrants wait to board a boat for the border with Panama, in Necocli (Colombia). EFE/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda

“Some people say that Venezuela has improved, but that’s a big lie,” says Yasmari, one of the members of this large family. They come from Venezuela – or other countries where they first tried their luck, such as Peru, Chile or even Colombia – encouraged by acquaintances who tell them from the United States that things are better there. .

They do not hesitate to confess that they are afraid of what awaits them, a jungle where the intrinsic risks of river floods, insect bites, steep hills full of mud and torrential rains combine with thefts, rape and other dangers.

But that, they say, is better than staying where they came from. Fear does not eclipse the desire to reach a future, even if it means making it a reality that borders on the unreal and above all the inhuman, customary.

Web edition: María Fernanda Rueda D.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here