The Predatory Economy Thriving in Panama’s Darién Gap

By Will Freeman

With millions on the move, businesses and criminal groups are turning big profits with destructive consequences.

METETÍ, Panama —The late ex-president of Peru, Alan García, once quipped that Latin America’s cocaine cartels were the region’s “only successful multinational.” Now, there’s another: the transnational migration economy, made up of human smugglers and legal businesses that ferry migrants desperate for safety and economic opportunity through difficult-to-cross national borders between South America and the United States. No part of the trans-continental journey is easy. But at bottlenecks where the going gets especially tough—either due to natural obstacles, like Panama’s...

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