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Panama Says Migrant Numbers Keep Surging

The number of migrants passing through Panama on the way to the United States keeps climbing, far outpacing the record numbers reached in 2022, a top authority said Friday.

“Today we add 227,000 migrants who have passed through our territory, and this month we are going to exceed the history-making 2022, when there were 248,000 migrants,” Security Minister Juan Manuel Pino told reporters.

Migrant passages are tallied at a border checkpoint in the Darien Gap, the muddy jungle that separates Panama and Colombia, which migrants traverse on foot as they head toward the United States.

Pino said the record numbers of migrants tallied in 2022 has almost been reached this year – with more than five months left to go in the year.

At current rates Panama may see 400,000 migrants pass through the country this year, he said.

According to official data through June 30, more than 100,000 Venezuelans crossed the Darien this year, almost half of the total number of migrants who made the trek.

Numbers of Haitians (close to 33,000), Ecuadorans (more than 25,000) and Chinese (more than 8,500) trail behind.

Authorities suspect that the trafficking of migrants through the Darien is managed by the Gulf Clan, a Colombian drug cartel.

In the last year, several armed confrontations have been reported in the Panamanian jungle between police and criminal gangs seeking to extort money from migrants.