When Life Is In The Hands Of Human Traffickers / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 4 February 2017 – The wifi signal
barely crosses the glass. The wireless network at José Martí
International Airport only covers the boarding area. But a woman presses
her whole body against the opaque window that separates the travelers'
area to communicate with human traffickers who are holding her daughter
For half any hour the lady reveals her despair. "I don't have that much
money, if I had it I would send it right now," she prays through IMO.
The videochat is cut several times by the poor quality of the connection
On the other side, the voice of a man repeats, without backing off,
"Three hundred dollars so she can return on Tuesday."
The woman wipes her tears and unsuccessfully asks for a reduction.
Nearby, a maid who cleans the bathroom passes by, idly dragging a cart
with cleaning supplies. A customs official walks by, absorbed, and
pretends he is not listening to the disturbing request projected from
the screen of the phone, "Don't kill her, don't kill her."
The scene happens in a place crowded with people, most of whom are
passengers about to board a transatlantic flight, or a new commercial
route to the United States, and there are also the family members and
friends who have come to see them off. No one shows any sign of hearing
the drama developing a few feet away.
A tourist tosses back a beer just as the woman is asking the man for
half an hour to "collect the money." She starts the race against the
clock. She calls several contacts from her IMO address book, but the
first four, at least, don't answer. On the fifth try, a shrill voice on
the other end says, "Hello."
"I need a huge favor, you can't say no," the lady stammers. But the head
that can be seen on the screen shakes from side to side. "Are you crazy?
And if after you pay this money they don't let her go?" asks the voice.
The tension makes the hand holding the phone start to tremble and her
granddaughter, who has accompanied her, helps her hold on to it.
Several more calls and the money is not forthcoming. Finally a serious
voice says yes, he can lend the money if the woman will pay it back "in
two installments" to his sister in Havana. The mother agrees, promises
she can "repay every cent," although it sounds like a formula to get out
of a bind. The man believes her.
Now they must arrange the details. The victim doesn't have a bank
account but the mother will send information about "how to send the
money." This is how the kidnappers get paid. Only then will they allow
her to fly from Cancun to Havana, or at least that is what they promise.
In the middle of last year the Mexican authorities shut down a network
trafficking in undocumented people from Cuba that operated in this
tourist area in the Mexican state of Qunitana Roo. The end of the "wet
foot/dry foot" policy this January has left many migrants in the hands
of the coyotes, who don't hesitate to turn to extortion to make up for
the reduction in the flow of Cubans and, as a result, their loss of
The wifi signal is lost altogether, but the mother is feeling relieved.
"She was in a large group, about 20 people," she tells her
granddaughter. A simple calculation allows us to know how much the
captors will earn on "freeing" all those they are holding.
Nothing ends with the delivery of the money. "She is going to want to go
again," concludes the mother, the instant she hangs up from the last
videochat. "I can't stand it here, I can't" she repeats, while walking
toward the escalator filled with smiling and tanned tourists.
Source: When Life Is In The Hands Of Human Traffickers / 14ymedio, Yoani
Sanchez – Translating Cuba -