Human Smuggling in the Caribbean under Pax Mexicana!

An Analysis of the Evolution of Human Smuggling in the Caribbean under the Hegemony of the Mexican Transnational Trafficking Organisations (MTTOs)

In 2015 human smuggling in the Caribbean basin changed as Asians, Africans and Middle Easterners entered the Caribbean basin to commence their journey to Mexico in their quest to enter the US illicitly and traditional Caribbean illicit migratory movements changed dramatically in its choice of destinations, strategies employed and organisational sophistication. This was the bounty unleashed by the hegemony of the methodology of the coyote of the transnational human smuggling organisations (THSOs) over human smuggling in the Caribbean basin. Before these dramatic changes that became manifest in 2015 the changes in the strategy of human smuggling in the Caribbean island chain indicated the impact of the new dynamic.

The Caribbean Island chain

Puerto Rico

The most potent indicator is the smuggling of individuals into the Caribbean island chain from various countries external of the Caribbean for eventual illicit entry into Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands then to the mainland USA. This trade is especially noted with the case of Brazilians entering Puerto Rico, acquiring false Puerto Rican or US identification then utilising air travel to enter the US. Haitians, Dominicans, Cubans and other nationalities also utilise this corridor. An illicit infrastructure enables and fosters this smuggling enterprise encompassing traffickers utilising sea vessels moving clients along the Caribbean island chain to the coyotes who animate the structure of moving and housing clients, providing the necessary inputs as false ids, providing the range of necessary services from agents of the state and collecting the funds from the clients. The package of goods and services accessed by the client is directly dependent on the quantum of money paid for the package with the budget customers being the most prone to exploitation in contravention of the contract with the coyote. The flow from Brazil to the Caribbean island chain then Puerto Rico and the mainland US fosters and enables a counter flow from the Caribbean to Brazil. The movement of smuggled humans to Puerto Rico via ocean travel utilises the ocean drug trafficking routes of the Caribbean island chain to Puerto Rico and in this movement of humans the Dominican Republic plays a dominant strategic role as is the case with the smuggling of illicit drugs. Citizens of the Dominican Republic, Haitians and other nationalities make the sea crossing via the Mona Passage from the DR to Puerto Rico. Dominicans and Haitians dominate the flow of migrants to Puerto Rico. The flow of Haitians has increased in volume following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the pause in deportations of Haiti and from the US and the placing of Haitians requesting US asylum in the slow assessment process following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. There are also collection and distribution points along the eastern and north eastern Caribbean island chain as St Lucia, Sint Maarten and Saint Martin, the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands as there are a multiplicity of routes and methods utilised to place illicit migrants into Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands then the US mainland successfully. The wave of migrants and illicit drugs entering Puerto Rico is impacting the social order and the state at a time of acute financial crisis and a mass exodus of Puerto Ricans to the mainland US. The organised crime groups that manage these illicit enterprises in Puerto Rico will impact the social order much more effectively as a result threatening the viability and sustainability of the licit order. The end of the special status afforded Cuban migrants to the USA, wet foot, dry foot, was ended in January 2017 which means that Cuban migrants to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands must now comply with the immigration laws that didn’t apply to them since 1966. To enter these territories now without a valid US visa, Cuban migrants will now be illegal migrants/aliens with the only option being to apply for asylum but this process can involve incarceration in a Federal immigration detention centre and possibly deportation to Cuba if the application is rejected at the end of the period of assessment. Or to enter the USA illegally and live under the radar seeking to become invisible from the gaze of the law. A far cry from what obtained under wet foot, dry foot which has impacted the volume of Cuban migrants heading to US territory in the Caribbean since January 2017. The Dominicans and Haitians will continue to make the journey as they seek to enter the US mainland illicitly whilst they settle in Puerto Rico or to make the jump to the US quickly following entry into Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

The Bahamas

The demand for human smuggling services from the Caribbean island chain to the US is potently illustrated by the re-awakening of The Bahamas island chain as a jump-off point for illicit entry to the US in spite of the US investment in assets and personnel to patrol the ocean separating the US from The Bahamas both singly and jointly with The Bahamas. Persons from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America seeking to enter the US illicitly via The Bahamas are arriving in the Bahamas from various jump-off points as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Some are entering The Bahamas legally then moving to utilise the illicit ocean crossing to the US. Cubans and Haitians dominate the nationalities seeking to make the crossing but Brazilians are also a noted nationality which again contributes to the operation of the counter Caribbean to Brazil pipeline. The intensity of the US security net placed over this crossing raises the probability of failure which increases the risk to the safety of migrants in transit and impacts the cost to traffickers as coyotes must factor this risk to their person and operation in the cost of their services. This route then attracts migrants with special conditions attached to their quest for asylum as Cubans and those desperate enough to enter the US to risk the ocean crossing but unwilling to undertake the long route to the US/Mexican border. The end of wet foot, dry foot in January 2017 has then impacted the volume of Cubans entering The Bahamas to make the jump to Florida, USA. Haitians continue to flow into The Bahamas seeking to fit into the huge Haitian population of The Bahamas whilst seeking out the finances and the means to make the jump to Florida, USA. The largest groups of illegal migrants by nationality are: Haitians, Jamaicans, Dominicans and Brazilians.

The re-awakening of the use of The Bahamas as a human smuggling jump off point to the US was preceded by the re-awakening of The Bahamas as an illicit drug trafficking point to the US as is the case with the rest of the Caribbean island chain the illicit drug trade and human smuggling complement each other.

The case of St Lucia

Cubans can enter St Lucia without a visa but 38 Cubans interdicted by the US Coast Guard in a sea vessel headed to the US Virgin Islands carried a St Lucian tourist visa in their Cuban passports. The party entered St Lucia then boarded a boat in St Lucia to be smuggled into the US Virgin Islands either directly or via another island stopover. The package sold to the Cuban party of migrants included a St Lucian visa indicating the ability of the trafficking organisation to purchase services and impunity from agents of the state in St Lucia. This was not a single visa purchased but 38 placed in Cuban passports which at minimum indicates the handover of Cuban passports to the agent/s of the state in St Lucia. With such transactions one expects that the production of false/fake identification documents with false or stolen identities is also in existence in these Caribbean states. Again the confluence of the illicit drug trade and human smuggling must be noted in this case as St Lucia is a transition point on the Eastern Caribbean Trafficking Pipeline (ECTP) and there is the St Lucia to Guadeloupe spur of this pipeline where the pipeline enters an overseas French territory by extension France and the EU. The end of wet foot, dry foot in January 2017 has also impacted the flow of Cubans to St Lucia seeking to be smuggled to US territory in the Caribbean island chain. Any smuggling of Cubans since then is now a run of the mill operation to penetrate the border of US territories in the Caribbean island chain with illicit migrants.

Trinidad and Tobago (T&T)

T&T has evolved in the second decade of the 21st century into the apex destination country for migrants in the Caribbean island chain with migrants from CARICOM member states especially Jamaica and Guyana being the dominant migrants. Migration to T&T also has a global context with migrants from Asia mainly Chinese, Africa especially West Africans such as Nigerians, the Middle East especially Syria and Latin America especially Venezuelans. The flow of migrants to T&T especially from non-CARICOM sources is driven by transnational organised crime groups and the acquisition of the services of state agents necessary to ensure legal entry and presence in T&T is part of the package offered for sale to migrants. Those unable to afford these services then resort to methods which place them outside of the law where they inhabit the dangerous world of an illicit existence. Transnational organised crime groups active in human smuggling to T&T are also involved in the illicit drug trade, gambling, prostitution and financial crimes. By far the largest non-Caribbean basin and Latin American migrant group is the Chinese from China and this group has had an impact on the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago that no other recently arrived migrant group has had. What is noteworthy is the discourse of deception and victimhood peddled in the media by members of the recently arrived Chinese migrants who choose to speak to the media. Why is there a need to mask the area of origin of these migrants by spinning a web of lies of origin from far flung autonomous zones of China where ethnic minorities as the Miao, the Dung, the Hui, the Tibetan and the Mongol live when it’s obvious to those of us who know better that the majority are from Guangdong, Guanxi and Fujian. Is there then an attempt to mask the operational presence of the Fujian snakeheads in T&T?

Lessons of the human smuggling enterprise

The discourse of the Wall of the US Border Service is simply a discourse with a discordant reality on the ground where holes functionally exist for a variety of reasons the most potent being complicity and political gamesmanship. Both the illicit drug traffickers and the human smugglers expose this reality on a daily basis. One most illustrative instance is the US deportee from the DR who successfully, repeatedly re-entered the US after multiple deportation events from the US.

Events and law in both the sources and destination countries impact each other to establish an environment that creates and facilitates the movement of migrants but this is not the entire reality.

A discourse has to be created and launched that constitutes the perception that the need to migrate, the opportunity to migrate, the country to migrate to and most importantly the logistics to successfully migrate to the destination of choice all exist as a coherent whole. This discourse presents a possible, real outcome for a choice made and a price paid. The masters of creating this discourse are the transnational human smuggling organisations (THSOs) and when unleashed they have the ability to motivate human action that can be reckless and a plausible threat to the life of the person paying and choosing to be an illegal migrant. In spite of this reality the clients willingly pay for the services and surrender their safety and well-being to a criminal organisation over which they have no power. The THSOs then link perception to logistics which insists that the journey is feasible and the end result is attainable therefore the price for the package is acceptable no matter the personal sacrifice to gather the resources to pay. It also justifies the submission to the THSOs as the successful attainment of the prize is uppermost. It is only with the failure of grasping the prize including interdiction by state agencies do you then speak of the horror of the journey and the treatment meted out to you by the personnel of the THSOs. The foundation of the entire process is the strategic input of the THSOs and any failure to engage with these groups is a failure to deal with the entire process of moving people to destinations illicitly.

The best examples of this reality in action in the evolution of human smuggling in the Caribbean is the case of Cuban and Haitian migrants in the second decade of the 21st century.

Haitian Migration

Haitians before the 2010 earthquake pursued a migratory strategy with multiple destination points utilising a mix of licit and illicit means to facilitate migration. There was the mass migration to the Dominican Republic, the movement to the US, Canada and France and the territories of the US and France in the Caribbean island chain and movement to islands of the Caribbean island chain namely the ex-British colonies and the Dutch territories. In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake a new and unique dimension was added to Haitian migration which was first the route from Haiti to Brazil via various transition countries, then Haitian migration to states other than Brazil many of them were originally transition states as Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, then the movement from Brazil to the US border with Mexico, the movement from Haiti to the US border with Mexico via various transition countries and finally the movement from the US to Canada in pursuit of asylum. From 2010 to 2017 the landscape of Haitian migration from Haiti has organically changed dramatically and this revolutionary change was made possible by the hegemony of THSOs over this migratory movement. It must be noted that every single migrant pipeline established to facilitate the Haitian migration to Latin America mirrored the existing illicit drug trafficking pipelines of the region even in the case of Brazil. Migrants crossed the border into Brazil at existing drug transition points in the states of Amazonas and Acre whilst others entered via cities Belo Horizante and Sao Paulo of the eastern region of Brazil bordering the southern Atlantic Ocean which is a major jump off point for traffickers to Africa and Europe. In the Caribbean basin the THSOs are all part of or affiliates of the MTTOs which accounts for the explosion in the movement of migrants from sources other than Central America into Mexico for transition into the US across the US/Mexico border. The MTTOS by the second decade of the 21st century globalised its coyote services on the Mexico/US border. Without a tradition of Haitian migration to Brazil and the knowledge on the ground of the logistics necessary to access Brazil especially via transition countries as Ecuador and Peru and the cost of undertaking this journey from Haiti and the DR this new pipeline with counter flow appeared literally overnight. It was clearly the product of the discourse of the THSOs that created Brazil as a desirable and attainable target for Haitian migration which created the demand for the services of the said THSOs. The THSOs chose Brazil given dominance of the Brazilian forces in MINUSTAH in Haiti, the possession of the logistics necessary to reach Brazil from Haiti and the DR and Brazilian law that was in support of migration to Brazil. The result of which was the explosion of human smuggling capacity in the transition countries and Brazil which enabled nationalities other than Haitians to be smuggled into countries of the transition zone and Brazil as Dominicans. The Brazilian strategy to grant Haitians humanitarian visas issued in Port-au-Prince enabling licit entry to Brazil did not curb the explosion of human smuggling networks and their coyotes in the pipeline to Brazil. The pipeline evolved from 2010 adding Chile as the second destination for Haitian migrants after Brazil and from 2015 the counter flow of Haitians leaving Brazil for Mexico merged with the transnational flow entering Central and South America destined for the Mexico/US border. This flow through the transition countries to Mexico included Haitians held up in countries as Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica precipitating a migrant crisis driven by attempts to form barricades to prohibit the flow of migrants through the transition countries to Mexico. These flows now merged with the flow out of Central America headed to the Mexico/US border.

The success of the Haitian migrant enterprise of the THSOs is illustrated by the estimates of Haitian migrants present in countries of MERCOSUR as a result of this enterprise. Brazil: 2010-2016: 67,226 Haitian migrants, Chile: 2011-2015: 17,849 Haitian migrants, Venezuela: 2016: 6,509 Haitian migrants, Colombia: 2010-2016: 1,375 Haitian migrants, Argentina: 2011-2015: 1,165 Haitian migrants Bolivia: 2011-2015: 905 Haitian migrants, Ecuador: 2011-2014: 776 Haitian migrants and Peru: 2015: 56 Haitian migrants. The estimates of Haitian migration to MERCOSUR reveal the primacy of Brazil as the destination country with Chile being a distant second which illustrates that the strategy of targeting Brazil yielded a momentum of its own which deepened the flow of migrants through the response of the  Brazilian state to issue humanitarian visas to all Haitian citizens desirous of migrating to Brazil in 2012 and in 2015 to invite Haitian migrants in Brazil who entered Brazil without the humanitarian visa from January 2012 to so apply for them. The number of Haitian migrants presenting themselves as applicants for asylum at Brazilian points of entry before the granting of the humanitarian residency visa in 2015 for those illicit migrants in Brazil forced this response and thereafter the flow of Haitians migrants evolved as the families of those in possession of said visas in Brazil now joined the flow of migrants to Brazil for the purpose of family reunification. Discourse, strategy, organisation, enterprise and logistics indicate the hegemony of the THSOs over this migrant movement. The picture afforded by the estimates of Haitian migrants to countries of MERCOSUR is expanded with the figures reportedly released by the government of Chile which show that in 2016 43,898 Haitians entered Chile and for the period January 1 to July 26, 2017, 44,289 Haitians entered Chile. Chile is both a destination country and a transition country for Haitian migrants and the numbers entering in 2017 for the period has already outstripped the total arrivals for 2016. The economic recession in Brazil and the inability of Haitians to enter the US freely as before in the period post 2010 earthquake to September 2016 in order to apply for asylum within the context of a slow deportation process and a moratorium on the deportation of Haitians from the USA has now turned Chile into the destination of choice in MERCOSUR. The Brazilian ambassador in Port au Prince is reported to have stated that 107,000 Haitian migrants have been regularised in Brazil as a result of Haitian migration to Brazil.

It has been estimated that Haitians in Haiti needed to raise between USD 2,000 to USD 6,000 to finance the journey from Haiti to Brazil. Haitians without the cash resource were then forced to liquidate their assets and/or raise capital through loans from the informal financial sector. This engagement with the informal financial sector was the first step of prospective Haitian migrants into the spaces dominated by the THSOs. Those migrants departing Haiti indebted to these organisations inhabit an entirely different reality from those migrants independent of the informal financial sector. Those indebted migrants are in fact the property of the informal financial sector and the THSOs who both exact harsh and heavy prices for failure. The news report which indicated that the “unreported” remittances to Haiti from Chile in July 2017 amounted to USD 8.7 million an increase of 16% over June 2017 illustrates the flow of money to Haiti from Haitian migrants in Chile part of which flows into the coffers of the THSOs and the informal financial sector. Haitian migration then exacts a financial toll on the people of Haiti a toll made necessary by the chronic underdevelopment of Haiti and the severe inequality that holds the social order to ransom.

The estimate of Haitian migrants in MERCOSUR lists Venezuela as having the third largest Haitian migrant population in spite of the realities of the present Venezuelan economy. This reality fits into the movement of Haitian migrants into the Southern rim of the Caribbean basin to Venezuela, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and the prized destination of French Guiana. The government of the French overseas territory of French Guiana exerted pressure on Suriname to place the need for an entry visa on Haitians and in French Guiana an entry visa was also imposed. Again the movement of the Haitian migrants in this region mirrors that of the illicit drug trafficking pipelines of this region. In this case various air travel routes were used to enter Suriname where as members of CARICOM Haitians required no entry visa and from Suriname the Haitians crossed into French Guiana. Haitians are also entering Guyana where they are smuggled into Suriname then to French Guiana which is a French overseas territory. There are also reports that Haitians left Haiti entered Guyana a fellow member of CARICOM to then travel to Brazil to join the Brazil to Mexico pipeline utilised by Haitians leaving Brazil for the US via Mexico.

The strategy of moving Haitian migrants to multiple destination points simultaneously is to ensure that the demand for the services of the THSOs is sustainable and maximised. As the Brazilian economy tanked alternatives were found to exploit the desire of Haitian migrants to move to alternate destination points where the opportunities sought exist. This strategy of the THSOs impacts the social order of destination and transition countries through the organised crime spawned to ensure this strategy is realisable. This organised crime enterprise is multi tasked with a range of illicit products trafficked to maximise profits: illicit drugs, illicit small arms, human smuggling, kidnapping, prostitution, gambling, extortion, fake goods, energy, natural resources as gold, diamonds and coltan. Transnational Trafficking Organisations (TTOs) engaged in illicit trafficking in the Caribbean basin and MERCOSUR were then simply expanding their business interests to earn and maximise profits when in 2010 in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake they applied their multi destination smuggling strategy to Haiti. In this geographic area the Mexican TTOs are hegemonic and the new strategy for the smuggling of Haitians is their creation.

Destination USA

In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake the USA on July 23, 2011 afforded Haiti Temporary Protected Status (TPS) expiring on January 22, 2018. From July 23, 2011 the imperative was now for Haitian illegal migrants in the US to now apply for TPS. The Obama administration announced immediately following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti the change in the manner in which Haitians without valid US visas would be treated with when they presented themselves for entry to the US at a US port of entry. These Haitians were allowed to enter the US and placed on a slow process of assessment for deportation or asylum which placed them in the US population rather than being incarcerated awaiting the outcome of assessment. This was then the attraction post 2010 earthquake for Haitians to journey to the US and present themselves for assessment. In 2015 a new wave of Haitians impacted this scenario and the strategy that drove it as Haitian migrants began leaving Brazil for the US/Mexico border the majority using the land routes through South and Central America concentrating their efforts to enter the US at the San Ysidro port of entry near to San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico. San Ysidro is the world’s busiest border crossing which was commencing in October 2015 and continuing inundated with a tsunami of Haitian migrants. From October 1, 2015 to September 4, 2016 the facility processed in excess of 5,000 Haitian migrants which swamped the facility presently under construction. With an estimate of 40,000 Haitians in transit to the US/Mexico border, the threats posed by this tsunami of migrants admitted under the slow deportation process buttressed by the no deportation position post 2010 earthquake and the geopolitical fallout in the countries of transition especially Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico heightened by transition countries closing their borders to Haitians migrants. Thereby creating a diminished flow in the pipeline and a backlog of migrants in transition countries creating pressure within the social order. In September 2016 the Obama administration announced the lifting of the ban on deportations of Haitians and the return of Haitian migrants without a valid US visa to the fast track of assessment and deportation. With the licit door to the US now closed the choices left were to enter the US illicitly, to return to Brazil or now to Chile, to settle in the transition countries, find another destination country as French Guiana or return to Haiti. The entire response to the US action in September 2016 is premised on possession of the monetary resources necessary to pursue any option chosen. This operational reality placed and places Haitian migrants in positions of grave risk of kidnapping, extortion, slave labour, murder, poverty, disease and indigence for those without the necessary monetary resources.

The fact that the THSOs created and offered the services of a counter flow to the US/Mexico border to the Brazil flow enabled, sowed the discourse of the possibility and need to leave Brazil in the grips of an economic recession for the apex promised land of Haitian migrants: the USA and made the flow possible to the Mexico/US border.  The sophisticated nature of the smuggling strategy formulated for the flow of Haitians to the Mexico/US border is illustrated by press reports in 2015 and 2016 of Africans from the Democratic Republic of the Congo utilising the pipeline to enter Mexico then cross into the US. It was subsequently unearthed that the migrants from the DRC were in fact Haitians masking their identity from the governments of the transition countries and especially the government of Mexico. The transport of Haitian migrants to Tijuana, Mexico for the purpose of inundating the busiest border crossing in the world whilst it was under construction potently illustrates the strategy of the MTTOs in action. The border crossings of Texas and Arizona were not targeted for obvious strategic reasons. The threat posed by the strategy of the MTTOs to US border security in a presidential election year demanded political action which came to the detriment of Haitians seeking to exploit the post 2010 earthquake immigration position. But the MTTOs and their coyotes are still in business catering to the demand for illicit entry to the US especially by international clients who in 2015 increased their demand for illicit crossings into the US from Mexico. In 2017 the victims of the illicit enterprise of the THSOs that encompasses the Caribbean basin and transition countries of Central and South America remain trapped in the landscape of their quest for a life they desired and were denied in the land of their birth: Haiti. A news report indicated that about 20, 500 mainly Haitian migrants arrived in the state of Baja California, Mexico concentrated in the cities of Mexicali and Tijuana of this estimated number 16,500 entered the US before the border was closed to them with about 4,000 Haitians stranded in both cities. The Mexican government aided some 800 Haitians to return to Brazil mainly, Costa Rica and Panama and Ecuador whilst the rest were invited by the Mexican government to regularise their status in Mexico or face deportation to Haiti.

Departing the USA for Canada

Whilst stranded in Tijuana and Mexicali migrants were exposed to a new discourse of migration to a new destination country. The discourse called for travel to Canada where at the Canadian port of entry migrants will apply for asylum. Obama in September 2016 ended the moratorium on deportation and placed Haitians again on the fast track assessment path which entailed incarceration during assessment. The Trump administration further tightened the screws by speeding up the deportation process and illegal Haitian migrants in the hands of the US immigration agency formed the expectation that their deportation was assured and TPS will die at its expiry date in 2018 further speeding up and deepening the process of deportation of Haitian illegal migrants from the US. The response of Haitian migrants in the US especially those classified under TPS was to enter Canada illegally and request asylum. What started in July 2017 has now grown into a river with a significant number of the flow of Haitians being below 18 years of age and some being citizens of the USA if they were born in the USA. It is estimated that the flow of illegal Haitian migrants ranges between 200 to 300 per day with 5% to 10% being children presenting themselves to the Canadian state agency as applicants for asylum. The major crossing in Canada is at Saint Bernard de lacolle which is the gateway to Montreal whilst the transition city in the USA is Pittsburgh. It was also reported that Haitians are leaving Haiti to enter Canada and applying for asylum. One such route to Canada is to enter the US travel to Pittsburgh then cross the border at Saint Bernard de lacolle, Canada. Canada does not have a tradition of granting asylum to Haitians to merit this flow into Canada seeking asylum. Those rejected by Canada will be deported to Haiti and those with children born in the USA under Canadian law will be separated from their children who are US citizens. These US citizens will be repatriated to the US beckoning memories of another holocaust. With an estimated 58,000 Haitian migrants in the USA under the TPS designation the reservoir for the flow to Canada in pursuit of asylum is huge. The spawn of the aggressive neoliberal imperialist agenda pursued by Canadian politicians in Haiti especially against the presidency of Jean Bertrand Aristide and thereafter has now come home to roost. The chickens are coming home to roost facilitated and motivated by the Hawks of the THSOs specifically the MTTOs.

Cuban migration to the US

In 2015 a wave of Cuban migrants utilising the land route of Central America to the Mexico/US border then the US was unleashed. This was a wave of migrants confident that their entry into the US was automatic given the legislation in their favour. In fact, believing that this was their entitlement as Cubans fleeing a communist state. The choice of the land route was logical given the volume of migrants heading to the US border and the wet foot, dry foot policy which encouraged and rewarded entry via a land route but punished those with deportation to Cuba if interdicted on the sea on their way to US territory. What distinguished this Cuban wave of 2015 from all others since the revolution is the choice of the central American land route to Mexico, the volume of migrants choosing this route, the financial resources expended by members of this wave of Cuban migrants to Mexico and most importantly is the partnership of members of this wave with the THSOs in the quest for effective and rapid movement to Mexico. In fact, this group of Cuban migrants moving through the Central American land route constituted a feeding frenzy amongst THSOs given the demand for their services and the ability to pay for these services by the Cuban migrants.

In 2014 27,278 Cubans entered the US, in 2015 the number rose to 43,169 Cubans and in 2016 it was 56,406 Cubans which indicates the pressures exerted by this wave of Cuban migration on the land route to the Mexico/US border and the impact on the US ports that they chose to enter the US through. The Cuban route entailed entering Ecuador then moving north through various transition countries as Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala then Mexico. In the US some 64% of Cuban entrants chose the port of Laredo, Texas for their entry to the US. There were alternate routes as through Belize to Mexico and through Guyana to Brazil then to Colombia for the crossing into Central America. The organisation and strategy of the migratory flows are evident as the Cubans were slotted into the Laredo crossing zone whilst the Haitians, Africans, Chinese, South Asians, North Asians and Middle Easterners were slotted into the crossing zone of Mexicali and Tijuana in Baja California the twin of San Diego, California, USA. During the course of the Cuban migration through Central America the geopolitical realities that favour Cuban migration to the US at that time, the resources the Cuban migrants had access to, to facilitate their journey and the organic relationship with the THSOs were potently indicated. Their favoured migrant status in the US ensured that their journey through the transition countries allied to the US was non-problematic unlike the case of the Haitian migrants. There was no problem for the Cuban migrants to enter and exit Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica and Guatemala for example provided they were in transit to Mexico. When Nicaragua refused to grant entry visas to these Cuban migrants resulting in the migrant flow stagnating in Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia these governments enabled the chartering of airplanes to be filled with Cuban migrants at a cost of over USD 500 per migrant to be flown to Guatemala thereby by passing Nicaragua and recreating the flow to Mexico then to Laredo, Texas, USA. In these state sponsored attempts to ensure the Cubans arrived in Mexico then entered the USA THSOs were active entrepreneurs.

The quantum of the flow of Cuban migrants at the Mexico/US border and the velocity of their flow into the US ensured by the actions of the US allies in the transition countries resulted in the abrogation of the special status afforded Cuban migrants to the US under wet foot, dry foot by President Obama in January 2017 during his final days in office and to-date President Trump is yet to rescind this Presidential order of Obama. Cuban migrants to the US must now enter the US with a valid visa and an illegal entry to the US to enable an application for asylum triggers the assessment process with the possibility of incarceration during assessment and deportation to Cuba at the end of the process. Cubans trapped in Mexico following the Obama presidential order were given the following choices by the government of Mexico: deportation to Cuba or regularisation of their status in Mexico. But the MTTOs offered another choice: illicit entry into the US via the coyote network the business survives and thrives because of politics and political action.

There is an alternate Cuban migration that does not target the US which quickened in 2013 when the government of Cuba relaxed the travel restrictions placed on Cubans. Cubans now fly to countries that don’t require a visa for their entry and enter into the process of migrating to countries for various reasons. Various countries in the Caribbean and Latin America are then then the entry points that become migration points/transition countries. Cubans regularly fly into Guyana given the no visa requirement and the long standing ties between both countries shop and return to Cuba or stay on in Guyana and then move through Latin America or the Caribbean island chain. Cubans enter Guyana seeking employment, to establish enterprises or to take part in illicit activity such as travel document forgery. Entry to Guyana enables entry to Brazil and the CARICOM member states hence the use of the weekly flights from Cuba to Guyana and the no entry visa requirement for Cubans to enter Guyana to facilitate personal agendas. The demand for official documents from state agencies in Guyana from this flow of migrants and others has expanded the expanse of the supply of illicit services from agents of the state.

The end of wet foot, dry foot in January 2017 has changed forever the flow of Cuban migration where now the alternate/secondary minor flow is now the major flow. A flow that is now in need of the services of the THSOs as never before since 1966. Whilst the once much valued flow to the US must now address the US immigration channels Cubans were exempted from previously or pay for the services of the coyotes of the MTTOs to enter the US illegally.

Destination USA: the global migrants

The Cuban and Haitian waves along the land route to the Mexico/US border grabbed the attention of the western media thereby masking the sustainable nature of the enterprise of transporting migrants to Mexico then into the US and Canada illicitly as demand for this service has not waned from continental clients and off continent clients from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The volume of demand from off continent clients does not outstrip and even match the voluminous flow of the Cuban and Haitian migrant waves of the 21st century but the flow is constant and its illicit as the migrants are intent on entering the USA and Canada illicitly as there is no intention to abide by the immigration laws of both countries which means that the prices charged are much higher. These migrants are then the most vulnerable, the cost of services offered and sold to them are much more expensive compared to the Cubans and Haitians and those among them unable or refusing to pay for the services of the coyotes of the MTTOs and the THSOs are open to violent deprivations such as kidnapping for ransom, slave labour, even murder.

The impetus for the THSOs is then to manage migrant flows to Mexico and in doing so multiple routes to Mexico is the strategy adopted which has now embraced countries of the Caribbean basin which were previously excluded from the logistics of the migrant flow to Mexico then to the USA and Canada. Caribbean deportees and migrants are using this route to re-enter the USA which blends with the flow of global migrants entering the Caribbean island chain for movement to Mexico. Circuitous routes are adopted and the entry point to Mexico can be Belize as Belize is a member of CARICOM therefore movement to Belize via a CARICOM route is feasible. Belize in 2006 and 2010 had two instances of complicity of the state agencies of Belize in the sale of travel documents to Chinese migrants seeking to enter the US and in the 1990s Belize was integrated into the Fujianese snakehead transnational organised crime group that smuggled Chinese into the USA especially New York headed by Sister Ping. The Fujianese snakehead THSO was never dismantled in Belize and remains operational today. The flow of Chinese migrants into the Caribbean basin and to Mexico for illegal entry to the USA and Canada illustrates the continuity of a smuggling pipeline fostered by its ability to adapt to changing operational realities. The Caribbean basin is a transition zone to the route to Mexico as it’s also a transition zone to the USA and Canada. But with the expansion of Chinese interests in the Caribbean basin and Latin America these zones are now destinations for illicit Chinese migrants especially those under the control of the snakeheads. The prime destinations are still the USA and Canada hence the need for use of the Mexico/USA border. But in the Caribbean the flow of Chinese migrants between Guyana and Suriname which masks the flow into Latin America and the Caribbean island chain is illustrative of the pipelines moving Chinese migrants into, through and out of the Caribbean basin where the snakeheads and the MTTOs have formed an alliance where there is the illicit flow from China to the region and the counter illicit flow from the region to China.

The abiding lesson of this illicit enterprise is the cost attached to a hierarchy of service packages offered by the THSOs. The experience of those who purchased the premium package for their journey from their country of origin to their destination is vastly different from those who could only afford the low end package. And the experience of those of very limited means seeking to traverse spaces under the control of the coyotes of the THSOs is in a category by itself. Western media concentrates predominantly on the discourses of those of the latter group and the low end package but the effectiveness of the enterprise of the THSOs is best illustrated by the discourse of those who purchased the premium package but they are the most successful smuggled migrant group and not given to talking to the media. There is then a social order of migrants at the US/Mexico border with those experiencing grave hardship to attain their objective being most visible and vocal as is common to all illicit social orders. But this reality in no way sums up the reality of this illicit social order and the sustainability of its illicit enterprise as demand for an illicit service drives it but those who can afford the premium package, a minority, are its most successful customers in attaining their personal objective. An illicit enterprise that exhibits the characteristics of capitalism in all its glory yet it contravenes law. There is then a vast difference in outcome between the price paid of USD 50,000 and USD 5,000. What then must you expect when you pay USD 800? Or worst yet when you choose to make the journey to Mexico, then from Mexico to the US and within the US independent of the MTTOs who dominate this space? Whitened bones in the desert wilderness!

The North Atlantic Discourse of Human Trafficking

This discourse when applied to the Caribbean basin refuses to deal with the reality of human smuggling only focused on something defined as human trafficking where the person is being trafficked against their will. The overwhelming number of persons smuggled in the Caribbean basin pay for these services and are conscious, willing participants in an illicit enterprise. The most profitable victims trafficked in the Caribbean basin are the children smuggled in the company of adults posing as their parent/s or guardian charged with the task of delivering these children to the organisations that sell them to the paedophiles especially of the tourist resorts. The child slave markets of Haiti and the DR and the children of the sex business of Punta Cana are simply potent indicators of the child sex work business of the Caribbean. These children/victims are never the concern of the discourse of human trafficking much less its primary concern enabling the growth and development of online paedophilia sites using these children for media packages sold at great profit. They are the silent victims of this north Atlantic discourse in the Caribbean basin. Abduction, kidnapping and forced labour as sex work is part of the human smuggling industry in the Caribbean basin but the primary victims are those who willingly entered into a business relationship with the coyotes of the THSOs. The business of human smuggling is the terrain in which these actions take place you therefore deal with the primary activity not its offshoot. The business of human smuggling is all pervasive as persons being smuggled have learnt with the arrival of the discourse of human trafficking in the Caribbean basin you insist that you are a victim of human trafficking whenever interdicted by state agencies. Human trafficking is then the domain of the bottom feeders of the underworld in the Caribbean basin. Having no operational links to the hegemonic THSOs and devoid of the resources to create a smuggling organisation capable of competing with that of the THSOs they choose to use hustles of promises of jobs in other countries with package prices undercutting that of the THSOs and other players. They are looking for especially vulnerable people women for sexual slavery and men for forced labour. The gravest danger they face is the discipline of the THSOs for entering into their space as interlopers. This discourse of the north Atlantic has in fact worked in favour of the THSOs and the suppliers of children for sexual and other purposes and to the detriment of the children of the Caribbean basin.

Transnational Organised Crime Groups (TOCGs) Linkages to the MTTOs

The linkages between TOCGs and the MTTOs is now apparent as there are alliances and affiliations to maximise the profits of illicit trades that these crime groups are involved in. The premier smuggler of Chinese from China the Fujian snakeheads to the rest of the world has now an operational alliance with the MTTOs to move illegal Chinese migrants across the Mexico/US border into the US and this alliance also covers smuggling of migrants to Canada. The migrant flow of China is simply one illicit commodity of a pipeline of valuable inputs from China such as precursors for meth production and there is the flow to China of one of a range of illicit commodities such as the product, nose powder, that is the rage of the elite of China as in Shanghai. The premier human smugglers of West Africa the Nigerian organised crime groups also have an operational alliance as the Ghanaian dominant organised crime groups. This alliance moves migrants into the Caribbean basin and through the Caribbean basin to Mexico for entry to the USA and Canada. The alliance with these West African groups primarily encompasses illicit drug trafficking to the EU which illustrates a deepening of the alliance and affiliation. The movement of citizens of Nepal and Bangladesh in ever increasing numbers to Mexico and to North Africa for entry into the USA, Canada and Europe respectively indicates the links between the drug trafficking organisations of North Africa and the MTTOs who now control the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe. And the links between those THSOs moving the Asians to the Caribbean basin and North Africa to the MTTOs. The MTTOs through their operational alliances with illicit drug trafficking groups in North Africa, Mediterranean Europe, the Adriatic and the Black Sea have welded this reality to its hegemony over the Caribbean basin and the Mexican pipeline to the US and Canada to create in the 21st century the most expansive and transnational THSO alliance in history. In an era when the talking heads of neoliberal financial capitalism are speaking of de-globalisation whilst the hegemonic players of globalised TOC are welding alliances and affiliations into a profit maximising machine to exploit the weak and inadequate state produced by the political cult of neoliberalism further weakened to inadequacy fostered by the lack of will to engage by the cult of complicity of neoliberal financial capitalism with the TOCGs of the world.


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