In his 30 years as a coyote, José has crossed migrants into the United States by all possible means “except by plane on clandestine tracks.”
And he begins to enumerate: “In containers; in trucks that carry oranges, nailed as they say: the pallet goes upstairs full of tomatoes or soaps and down they are all nailed. Sometimes, in a three-ton truck there are nailed like 45 People. You can use the bus, the train, the private car as Mexicans say, the taxis … There are different and a thousand ways to cross migrants. “
Joseph [no es su nombre real] He is about 50 years old and agrees to tell his story (after a couple of day and hour changes) on the border between Guatemala and Mexico, in La Mesilla, department of Huehuetenango, famous for heading the first emigration positions in the country.
He defines his job as follows: “For the community we are angels, we are people who pay us to fulfill a dream, to get out of poverty. And for the laws, we are criminals.”
His business gives him to live, and he even has “some properties”, he says; the key to his success is having established a network of coyotes to traverse Mexico from south to north.
“They get me people from South America, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Central Americans, and they give them to me. I put my guides to work and the guides hand them over to another group,” he explains.
[Así burlan los coyotes a la Patrulla Fronteriza y esto es lo que cobran por un viaje a veces mortal]
A coyote never loses
For $ 8,500, he offers migrants three opportunities to try him. It is a difficult amount to pay for those who flee their countries precisely due to lack of resources, so José asks for guarantees. For example, property deeds: “I keep land, houses, vehicles, property. I don’t steal it; the moment they pay me, I return it to them.”
It seems to be an established practice by some coyotes in Central America to guarantee payment.
In 2014, José Rolando Morales, originally from San Pedro Pinula, in Guatemala, contracted a debt with his coyote of $ 11,600, the price for taking him to the United States along with nine other countrymen. As a guarantee, he forced him to hand over his house, recalls his sister Lorena: “The day he left, the coyote presented us with a lawyer so that we could sign the deeds of our house and we would leave them to him.”
In 2015, the body of Morales and that of his companions was found in a clandestine grave in Güemez, Tamaulipas state, in Mexico. Lorena got the house back, but lost her brother forever.
It was one more in a long list of tragedies.
In 2010, 74 migrants were executed in a warehouse in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Mexico. They were blindfolded, placed in front of a wall and shot. Last January, 19 charred bodies were found in Camargo, Tamaulipas, most of them Guatemalan migrants.
Massacred migrants and payment keys
The massacres of migrants occur, says José, because the coyote has not paid the fee to organized crime to cross his territory.
“If one does not pay, it is when one has problems with the mafia,” he explains, “and they do not tempt their souls to dismember or put one in an acid drum (…) You are far from your country, are you? Who is going to claim you? Who is going to ask for you? You died, it’s over, that’s where your life ended. “
Once the cartels collect, they give them a password as proof of payment. Sometimes, José says, they are colored bracelets. Other times they put turrets on trucks, lights like the ones used by patrol cars. Either the body is painted in a color or the driver wears a ribbon.
“So you know, when they give them that ribbon, when they give them that color it is because they have already paid,” he says.
In addition to paying the cartels, he explains that he must also pay bribes: “When we pay a federal or an immigration, we are not talking about 5,000 or 10,000 pesos. We are talking about 50,000 Mexican pesos (2,500 dollars) and more. And there are people also that it is not for sale “.
Hell of the road
Between 2014 and 2019, according to official figures, almost 2,000 migrants died crossing Mexico on their way to the United States. The most dangerous states for migrants are Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Veracruz and Chiapas. Some lost their lives at the hands of the cartels, and others from hunger, thirst, hypothermia or dehydration.
[Ciudad Juárez, la tierra donde se mueren los sueños de tantos inmigrantes: “¿Por qué nos engañaron, por qué?”]
Those who have it the worst are the children, says José.
“What need has a child to be cornered in a tomato box, to have to urinate in his own pants three or four times, a child,” he explains, “to be asking for food where there is none, to be asking for water where there is none. “.
And the women.
“Most of them are abused by the coyotes. They threaten them. If they don’t have sex with them, they leave them lying. Then they give in. And if a relative calls them and asks them how they are, they say” I’m fine here, nothing happens “, bill.
He, he assures, has never touched a woman: “No, I have daughters and I have a mother.”
The United States embassy in Guatemala has launched a campaign on social networks to convince Guatemalans to give up their wishes to emigrate. In it, a woman recounts the hard journey she had to make and how she was tricked by coyotes.
“We are angels and criminals”
José organizes trips lasting between eight and 15 days, he says. The most “bastard” of the trip is walking through the desert.
“Even if I have a bent or loving heart, I have to put it hard, because if I bow to the situation, instead of me keeping one, I have all of them, then I would rather lose one or two, than not lose the whole group, “he explains.
When it comes to crossing into the United States, it sometimes takes only two days but, when there is no luck, he has had to wait up to a month and a half. On other occasions, the Border Patrol has arrested them.
In those cases, to avoid being accused of a crime of human trafficking, which carries harsher penalties, he has always said that he was part of the group of migrants, whom he threatened if they betrayed him:
“If someone divulges that I am the coyote, I take some of you to say that you work for me,” he says.
In all his years as a coyote, he has known the detention centers with the Barack Obama Administration and also with Donald Trump, in Arizona and Texas, but he plans to continue working on the same thing: “Any government can cover our entrances but we enter, We went in. They with their politics and we with ours. “
Jenny Corado and José Corado collaborated from Guatemala in this report.