Panama Government Unveils Plans to Restrict U.S.-Bound Migrants from Darién Gap

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Panama Government Unveils Plans to Restrict U.S.-Bound Migrants from Darién Gap  US Open border

Incoming Panamanian administration outlines measures to curb migrant crossings through the Darién Gap.

Frank Ábrego, recently appointed as Panama’s next public security minister, outlined on Thursday the upcoming government’s initial steps to curb U.S.-bound migrants crossing through the dangerous Darién Gap jungle trail. Closing the Darién Gap was a key campaign promise of President-Elect José Raúl Mulino, a recently elected 64-year-old conservative who will assume office on July 1 for a five-year term.

On Thursday, Mulino introduced his cabinet of ministers, including Ábrego. In remarks to reporters, Ábrego detailed that the new administration has initiated “diplomatic contacts” and begun “studies through international organizations” to close the Darién Gap, a top priority for Mulino’s administration.

“We have already initiated a series of studies, through international organizations. He [Mulino] has made some contacts at the diplomatic level and we are preparing a plan that will be announced later,” Ábrego said.

Ábrego, set to become the Security Minister, stressed that while closing the Darién Gap is challenging, it is “not impossible.” He ruled out the construction of a border wall from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, proposing instead the establishment of checkpoints to detain and deport migrants.

“This idea of ​​building a wall is impossible, but if tomorrow we declare a border closure and establish checkpoints where we can detain migrants, then proceed with deportation and repatriation, as the president talked about, I think that will reduce the volume of migrants at the border,” Ábrego stated.

According to official statistics from the Panamanian government, over 520,000 migrants crossed the Darién Gap in 2023, doubling the 247,784 crossings recorded in 2022. More than 125,000 migrants traversed the Gap between January and April 17 of this year. The majority of these migrants hailed from Venezuela, Ecuador, Haiti, and China.

Last week, during his official proclamation as president, Mulino reiterated his commitment to deport U.S.-bound migrants crossing through the Darién Gap. “I will make an effort, that I have already started to talk about, to end the odyssey of the Darien, which has no reason to exist, and I reiterate that Panama and our Darien is not a transit route,” Mulino said.

Frank Ábrego, before his upcoming role as public security minister, served as the first director of Panama’s Senafront national border service from its inception in 2008 until 2016. During his tenure, Ábrego led operations that resulted in the banishment of an armed front of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group.