Migration in Latin America: A View from Panama

By Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado

Panama’s former vice president reflects on the migration flows reshaping the region.

I was sitting at my desk at the Palacio Bolívar, a world heritage site and home to Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when an adviser jumped in and shared the news: Nicaragua had closed its borders, and hundreds of migrants trying to cross Central America on their way north would be unable to get through. It was 2015, and Costa Rica was holding migrants in large numbers, as was Panama.

During our administration’s mandate from 2014 to 2019, over 80,000 undocumented migrants crossed Panama. More than half of them came from the Caribbean, mostly Haiti and Cuba, and around 30,000...

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