Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

The Sinaloa cartel, which controls some of the irregular migration from Mexico to the United States, is now very active at the Canadian border. A Colombian family, who arrived in the country after experiencing horror at the hands of this criminal group, spoke to Enquête.

A family plunged into horror Mexican cartels

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Migrants cross a river at the US border.

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Camilo is only 4 years old, but he endures, with disarming strength, the intense pain caused by a tumor that recently developed in his neck . The bulge continues to grow, as does the concern of his parents, Alex and Daniela.

In December 2022, this Colombian family arrived in Canada to apply for refugee status, after a journey strewn with perils. She was forced to do business with criminal groups, increasingly active at the borders and in human trafficking, all the way to the north of the continent, as recently revealed by Enquête .

The lives of these migrants, whose names we have changed in order to ensure their protection, have never been easy, even before their journey. Violence has never stopped knocking on their door.

Alex and Daniela were born in Buenaventura, a Colombian city on the Pacific coast that is home to the country's largest seaport. Formerly considered a center of tourist development, it is today at the center of a war for control of the cocaine routes which is raging in this Afro-Colombian region.

Daniela and Alex were not yet together when the latter, threatened by a criminal organization, had to go into hiding in Chile. A few months later, it was Daniela’s turn to find refuge there, also threatened by bandits. It was upon arriving in Chile that she met Alex, then started a family with him. Camilo and his little sister, Amara, were born from this union.

Everything was going well until the arrival of Colombian criminals in Chile. One day, after his day at work, Alex went for coffee with friends. Members of a Colombian gang arrived and caused a violent altercation. Alex was badly beaten and lost an eye. The family had to flee again for their safety.

This was after seeing reports in July showing the mass arrival of migrants via Roxham Road that she decided to head towards Canada.

Listen to Alex and Daniela talking about their journey and the horrors that accompanied it:

The family talks about their journey from Chile to Canada.

By following the advice of other migrants and friends who were already here or still in the United States, Alex, Daniela and their children took a flight to Cancun. Once in Mexico, they boarded a bus to go north to the American border.

It was then that they were caught in the spiral of cartels and had to face police corruption. Alex and Daniela remember that at road checkpoints, you had to give 100 US dollars (137 Canadian dollars) to law enforcement officers to avoid being turned back to the starting point. They were stopped six times, and had to pay three times.

However, the family has limited resources. So, when it came time for her to choose a coyote (smuggler) to cross the border, she opted for a smuggler who demanded less than the others: 250 US dollars (340 Canadian dollars) per person.

Today, Alex regrets this decision which turned out to be the worst, and the source of our unhappiness.

When he arrives with Daniela and his children in the state of Sonora, near the American border, police officers board the bus. Everything looks so official: the uniform, the badges, even the cars they arrived in. They asked us for our passports and did a migration check, Daniela remembers.

According to Alex, many people, especially Indians and Arabs, then gave the police a number, a code name and some money, which allowed them to continue on their way.

As they did not have a code name, Alex, Daniela, little Camilo and his sister Amara were forced to leave the bus with other migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia.

They forced us to get into vans to take us to a lonely house, says Alex. Only then did they reveal their true identities, saying: We are from the Sinaloa Cartel. You are now our hostages. If you don't pay 2000 US dollars (2740 Canadian dollars) per person, you won't get anywhere.

We don't know yet what we will deal with those who cannot find the money, they added as a threat.

They told us that, from now on, migrants had to have a secret code given by the smuggler to be able to cross, Alex recalls. And they told us that they had already killed coyotes that did not respect the new rules. Obviously, their smuggler had paid nothing.

What they say, Investigationalso heard it and was able to corroborate it with migrants who are now in Canada. Mexican specialists indeed confirm that cartels manage the clandestine passage of migrants at the border.

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All the people held captive in the lonely house by the Sinaloa cartel had to contact their families by video to ask for financial help. When the confirmation of sending money arrived, the criminals escorted the hostages to collect the money.

Alex and Daniela did not failed to collect the amount of money demanded by the bandits. One of the criminals then offered to use little Camilo as a bargaining chip: if the child stayed with him, they could survive and continue on their way to Canada.

One of the criminals told us: "I'll let you continue, but I'll keep your boy. With me, he can grow up and become a very good shooter, even a great killer,” Alex, Camilo and Amara’s father, told us.

But the couple refused. Afterwards, the wife of the criminal leader, who wanted a son, fell under the spell of little Camilo, a mixed-race child with long, curly hair, big black eyes and a beautiful smile.

The woman told us: 'Leave the boy to me, and go with your daughter and the money you have.'

The family did not want to accept this second offer. Daniela paid dearly for this decision: the criminals decided to sexually assault her on several occasions. My life has not been the same since the kidnapping, Daniela admits with sadness.

Daniela and Alex wanted to die when this sexual abuse happened. However, they had to protect and save their two children at all costs.

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Migrants on their way to the United States. (Archive photo)

It is common to discover cases of rape in the stories of migrants kidnapped by cartels, especially when these people are not x27;do not have the means to pay the amounts demanded in exchange for their freedom. A tragedy which remains unpunished due to the impossibility of finding those responsible.

Finally, after several days, the big boss of the traffickers decided to accept as payment the 3,500 US dollars (4,800 Canadian dollars) that they had managed to obtain from families in Colombia and Chile, and to smuggle the migrants to the States -United.

Just before crossing, the criminals asked them to record a video. Alex remembers that all the migrants had to, one by one, say: 'Thank you to the Sinaloa Cartel for helping us.

Camilo doesn't talk much today; he needs speech therapy, and his mother is convinced that he will need to be evaluated to determine if he has any psychological aftereffects.

They are small, my two children. Maybe they'll forget all that when they grow up. I ask myself questions. I don't even know if what we went through was worth it… But I can't let go; I have to keep moving forward for my children.

Camilo is only 4 years old. After surviving the dreaded Sinaloa Cartel, the little one must fight every day against illness and the pain caused by his neck tumor.

More , he must live in fear, not knowing if he will be able to stay in Canada.

With the collaboration of Romain Schué

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