The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Forced Criminal Activities along Mexico's Eastern Migration Routes and Central America Department of Public Affairs and Security Studies

Central America

The migrant route analyzed for this project starts in one of the three countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America - Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. All countries share push factors forcing their populations to migrate. Along with weak economies growth, low labor opportunities, government corruption and poor social tissue, one of the strongest reasons forcing Central Americans to leave their countries of origin is the presence of the gangs. These push factors have had a longstanding manifestation for decades in these countries.

The Border Control Agreement of 2006 allows for a fairly simple moving process throughout Central America. People from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, are free to move from one of these four countries to the other without any additional visa requirements as a result from this agreement, also known as the CA-4. However, after the crisis of an unprecedented arrival of unaccompanied Central American minors to the United States in 2014, there has been a strengthening of checkpoints along the Central American borders to ensure no child is traveling alone or without a parent.

In the Northern Triangle countries, cases of human trafficking were found in all three countries. Victims were mostly trafficked within their country of origin. The culture of gangs in Central America has prevailed for decades and their influence in societies is noteworthy. Human trafficking in the form of forced labor for criminal activities is highly present in the Northern Triangle countries. The existing gangs, with higher presence in the capital cities, have led to the recruitment of citizens for the gangs. Children are highly vulnerable to gang recruitment for several activities, such as: fee collectors, lookouts, drug distributors, and hit men. Human trafficking for sexual exploitation was found only in Guatemala. It is worth mentioning that Guatemala, being country closer to Mexico and with a higher concentration of migrants waiting to cross the border, was identified as the only Central American country with foreign victims of human trafficking in the form of sexual exploitation.