QCOSTARICA – Despite the dismantling by Costa Rican authorities of a human trafficking network on November 12, and believed to be the cause for now more than 2,500 Cuban migrants stranded at the Peñas Blancas border, has the business of the coyotes (the smugglers) really been broken?
In a report by La Nacion, journalist Estaban Mata and a photographer, set out to find out.
In his report published Sunday, the reporter describes the scene around the area of Plaza Gonzalez Viquez, between the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes installation, the Panama bus terminal; and area well known for transvestites to work the night streets.
Outside the terminal, formal taxis and piratas (informal taxis) crowd the sidewalk, under the watchful eyes of traffic police officials, who from time to time patrol the area around the terminal.
The coyotes are no longer in sight since the police action two weeks ago. Not until midnight.
“This is still hot,” says Gato, the name he prefers to use, at first coy on speaking to the reporter. But after a cup of coffee at the local soda (small restaurant) Gato loosens his tongue, saying “they no longer come here, they got scared off.” But, as Gato then explains, some coyotes who still come out at night, “picking up Cubans who arrive on the last bus between 11pm and midnight.”
On Wednesday (Nov. 18), Mata and his photographer decided to wait for the last bus from Paso Canoas.
The reporter writes that on arrival, the majority of passengers got off the bus and quickly boarded taxis or private vehicles. One group spent some time talking to the transporters.
One passenger, a Cuban woman, asked if there were a lot of Cubans, replied “Uff, lots of Cubans and other people”, then got on a motorcycle and disappeared into the night.
The drivers outside the terminal noticing the La Nacion reporter and photographer (wearing badges identifying themselves and a marked company vehicle) curiously shied away, and headed for their cars.
In minutes the terminal was clear. There was no one to talk to any more.
Cubans stranded at the Peñas Blancas border say the cost of a taxi ride from San Jose is US$50 per person.