March 31, 2014
I watched Hugo Rivera, a broad shouldered state police trooper, steer his patrol truck over the bumpy road along the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Two border patrol officers in military gear carrying machine guns sat in the back of the truck. Rivera looked out through the windshield, eyeing the lush green trees that line the river that marks the border. His AR-15 rifle bounced against the seat next to him as he pulled the truck towards the section of the river where migrants cross on inner tubes en-route towards Mexico’s northern border and eventually, the United States.
“We see a lot of cases of Central Americans coming up to rob the migrants. The ones with the tattoos stand out. MS-13, [Barrio] 18 – there are a lot of bad guys coming out of El Salvador,” Rivera told me.
The area was once a major crossing point for migrants leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. In 2005, however, Hurricane Stan destroyed the railway that crossed through Ciudad Hidalgo.
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