PUERTO MALDONADO — The scene takes place in utter obscurity. Along a deserted dirt road in this small town in western Peru, a group of 11 Haitians walk down the stairs that lead away from several makeshift bedrooms, hastily built above a bar in the outskirts of Puerto Maldonado. And that quick, they all duck into a waiting van.
Such discreet transfers are part of growing illegal immigration in Brazil.
In the car hired by a "coyote," the nickname given to smugglers, the migrants are told to keep the windows shut and covered with sheets. For security reasons, the Peruvian driver argues, it is best that nobody sees them during the journey.
Sitting in the last row, 35-year-old Deny tries to control his nerves, counting down the minutes before the end of his week-long journey from Haiti. In four hours, the 11 will have joined thousands who already entered Brazil via groups who control the global traffic of immigrants along the border.
Every week, some 400 illegal immigrants, most of them from Haiti and Africa, are smuggled into the country, reinforcing this already strong network that has been allowed to grow along the western border of the Amazon — between Peru, Brazil and Bolivia — thanks to endemic corruption and the blessing of part of the Peruvian National Police.
According to official data, more than 25,000 immigrants have made their way into Brazil from this region since 2011. The Interoceanic Highway, which connects the Pacific coast of Peru to the Atlantic coast of Brazil, became the main entry point into the country for illegal immigrants.
Few manage to escape these criminal groups, who can charge up to $4,000 for the journey from Haiti to Brazil. For Haitians, this sum represents months' worth of work for an entire family, who often hope that sending away one of their members will bring them more money in the future.
The practice is similar to the trafficking of immigrants between Mexico and the United States, although it is still far from reaching the same levels of violence.
People like Deny, who leave everything behind in the hope of finding "better days" in Brazil, have no choice but to turn to smugglers. Often, they end up being robbed, extorted and kept in inhumane conditions. Some see their passports confiscated by the smugglers for not paying what they are asked, while there are also reports of women who are forced to pay their debts with their own bodies.
The immigrants say that Puerto Maldonado, 230 kilometers from Brazil, is the most dangerous crossing. With no rights to enjoy and virtually invisible to the eyes of the city's 38,000 inhabitants, the foreigners are kept in small hostels until they reach their destination.
In Puerto Maldonado — Photo: Ivan Mlinaric
Without giving away our real identities, we stayed in one of the establishments used by the "coyotes" and saw immigrants being kept in rooms that can only be described as cells, locked from the outside.
We also witnessed the corrupt behavior of Peruvian police officers who collaborate with the traffickers. After negotiating with the driver and revealing to him that we were reporters, we traveled in the van with Deny and the others until the border town of Assis Brasil, in the state of Acre. On the way there, the driver bribed policemen at two of the four checkpoints.
Because the Haitians and Africans are crossing the country illegally, the police threaten to deport them.
Jeremie Dozina, who after 10 days of traveling reached Brazil from Haiti on May 14, recalls facing a local police chief along the way. "Do what I tell you," he was told. "I can have you sent back or arrested. If you want to continue your journey, you'll have to pay."
Left at the border with no money to eat or to pay for the bus to Rio Branco — located 350 kilometers away, where there is a shelter for immigrants — Dozina says the "coyotes" and the Peruvian police robbed him of some $300.
The journey of the immigrants starts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where they fly to Ecuador. From the capital of Quito to the Brazilian border, via Peru, they travel more than 3,000 kilometers. For Africans, who started to use the route last year, the journey is the same once they reach Ecuador, after flying from Spain.
Trafficking in Peru has been going on in broad daylight since 2011, with local law enforcement claiming that because no complaints are filed, there are no investigations.
Federal Police officials in Brazil say it is aware of the network and the ways it operates, but cannot do much to stop what happens outside its territory. Police officers, however, informed us that they have begun taking the names of taxi drivers who drive the immigrants from the border to Rio Branco, as a way to limit abuse and theft of the vulnerable new arrivals.
Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.
[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]
Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine
The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:
Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?
In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.
This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.
Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."
Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.
No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.
According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.
Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.
Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.
— Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos
• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.
• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.
• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.
• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.
• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.
• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.
• Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.
"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.
After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.
What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia
While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.
👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.
🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.
⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."
— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."
An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! email@example.com