The Darién Gap, a undeveloped jungle swampland connecting North and South America at the border of Panama and Colombia, is said to be one of the most dangerous places in the Americas. It’s largely overrun by human smugglers, paramilitary organizations, and drug traffickers, and the U.S State Department advises Americans not to travel to the region.
The region’s criminal reputation didn’t stop CBS News from running a sympathetic profile of some of the human smugglers operating in the area on Saturday. CBS’s portrayal of a ‘coyote’ named Emerson Gonzalez Jimenez was unquestioning of his claims that he was offering a generous service to the migrants who sought passage through the Darien Gap to Panama, usually on the way to the United States.
Colombians, Venezuelans, Haitians and even individuals from Asia or Africa commonly hire the services of the smugglers to navigate through the dangerous region. It’s not uncommon for migrants to die during the often-perilous journey, as the Gap poses a threat on account of its wild nature and the criminals known to operate within it.
A Marxist terrorist organization known as FARC, the Spanish-language synonym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has extensively operated in the area. FARC has trafficked and sold a great deal of cocaine destined for the United States, in addition to waging a violent insurgency against the government of Colombia.
The crossing of often helpless and penniless migrants through the Darién Gap poses a humanitarian concern. Migrants are largely powerless at the hands of the coyotes guiding them, and can be easily exploited. Female migrants are often raped or forced into prostitution by smugglers.
CBS’s profile of the smuggler presented him as a benevolent individual offering a service, without paying any mention to the abuse of helpless people perpetrated by human smugglers in the Darién Gap and beyond.
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