MUST SEE: New Bridge in Darien Gap in Panama Will Make Unprecedented Migration Easier
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THE DARIÉN GAP, Panama – Last year, a record half million migrants traveled through the dangerous jungle between Colombia and Panama on their way north to the U.S. Now there has been another major development, so this CBN News reporter traveled once again into the Darién Gap to document this unprecedented migration, and the project that could escalate it even more.
The massive flow of migration that broke records last year is showing no signs of stopping. That's panicking politicians here and in the United States as both countries are entering an election year. It's happening because many migrants still see this window as their best chance to come to the U.S.
Iranian migrant Kaveh Mehran told CBN News about her journey so far. "I start in Iran and Istanbul, Turkish (Turkey), and I go to Cuba, Havana; Havana goes to Venezuela; Venezuela, Colombia; Colombia then the Darien forest, then come here."
We visited an Embera village called Canan Membrillo, about 4 hours upriver inside the Darien Gap. Homes here are often thatched roof huts, built up on stilts to keep the bugs away. But now they're being upgraded as things are changing in Canan Membrillo. That's because of the migrant flow that's coming through in the thousands every day. So the locals here who used to be engaged in subsistence farming or fishing are now moving to logistics and tourism.
Many migrants passing through the Darien could have stopped and made a new life in multiple countries along the way before reaching this treacherous spot. That points to economics as their primary motivation, not persecution.
We asked one traveler from Afghanistan when he left that country. The Afghan migrant, named Mahmoud, told us, "Like 15 months ago, 16."
He chose not to settle in any of the countries he has traveled through, but he told us his path took him from Afghanistan to Iran, then to Brazil, then to Colombia and now to Panama.
We also spoke to an Iranian migrant who is headed for Los Angeles. He was previously in Europe for 10 years.
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Next, we visited the Panamanian town of Yaviza, the site of a new bridge construction that will make it easier to make the journey.
Here, the Rio Chuconaco along the Darien Gap is basically the separation point between Central and South America. And up until this point, there has never been a road across here, which means this is the furthest point south you can drive from North America. But that's about to change because they're in the process of building a large bridge that will connect these two sides of the river.
For the time being, they say this road is just going to go to some villages on the other side. But from the size of this bridge, it looks like the builders may have other plans in the future. And if that's the case, that could change everything from an economic standpoint, a political standpoint, and from the standpoint of migration here in the Western Hemisphere.
Lead Bridge Engineer Manuel Pinilla told us, "This area is rich in fertile soil, predominantly used for farming activities like raising livestock and growing tubers, among other crops. Transportation is solely by boat along the river, often requiring four to five hours of travel upstream or downstream. However, with this project, they'll have a more accessible link, potentially leading to significant development."
The dangerous Darien region represents the most difficult hurdle in these migrants' trek to the United States. But this new bridge may make the crossing much easier. And that will translate to many more taking their chances for the American dream.
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