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They are called canguritos , little kangaroos, because of the plastic trays of candy, cigarettes and other goods strapped across their bellies. There is Juan Gonzalez, 10, selling gum for pennies. There are Humberto Vazquez, 11, and Wilmer Hernandez, 13, shining shoes. And a few dark-skinned girls, none taller than 4 feet nor older than 12, wrapped in colorful indigenous cloth as skirts and offering tired pastries.
Though the exodus has been dominating U. Some are stranded here, unable to afford to go farther — and vulnerable to abuse. Little has been done to address what diplomats, activists and the migrants themselves say is a central problem: the complicity of police and other local officials who prey on those fleeing Central America, demanding bribes or sexual favors.
How else could it function? Humberto has been in Tapachula since leaving Huehuetenango, Guatemala, four years ago. He lives with an uncle and rarely attends school. What has changed this year is that the number of children traveling without a parent has soared, the children are younger than ever and more are girls.
The Mexican government, under U. Most of the actions the government has trumpeted, however, are a repeat of measures announced a year ago, and largely ineffective, critics say. But Lorente pointed to what he said were well-organized networks that traffic minors to Tapachula and beyond, often from the same handful of Honduran or Guatemalan towns. They are influential and powerful gangs, Lorente said. Once the purview of the notorious Zeta cartel and paramilitary force, the deadly trade has increasingly been taken over by gangsters from the same Central American countries as their victims, with the compliance of police or immigration authorities, migrants and activists say.
Last year, 11 police officers were dismissed after reports that they were charging Central American children fees to work the streets. But the officers were not prosecuted. Verdugo was installing surveillance cameras and an alarm system at his shelter the other day, after veiled threats of violence, probably from those powerful gangs. Three children — brothers Anderson and Jefferson Daniel, 7 and 10, and Anthony Fabricio, 5, all from the violent Honduran city of San Pedro Sula — watched a one-legged man, Jose Vazquez, who was lying listlessly on a bunk bed.