A migrant's odyssey from Venezuela to the United States

Venezuelan migrant Marcel Maldonado takes a rest in Costa Rica (Ezequiel BECERRA) Lying in the jungle with a gun pointed at him, Marcel Maldonado remembered his mother’s warning about the dangers of migrating overland to the United States — and wondered if he’d get out alive. Despite having a prosthetic leg, the 30-year-old Venezuelan had made it with his family as far as the notorious Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama. But when he got held up by criminals he was reminded why this is one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes. “They’ll never find my body here,” he remembers thinking. Maldonado had arrived in the remote region of dense rainforest and swamps days after leaving Venezuela on September 15 with his wife Andrea, 27, and adopted son Samuel, eight. It was one of the darkest moments in their nearly two-month odyssey through nine countries. More than a dozen AFP journalists in Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico and the United States followed Maldonado’s journey, which he made by bus, boat or walking with the aid of a stick. The data processing technician is one of 7.7 million Venezuelans — a quarter of the population according to the United Nations — who since 2014 have left their oil-rich country due to a deep political, economic and social crisis. Over a decade, he saw his country’s economic output shrink by 80 percent. Maldonado said he saw only “a life of poverty” ahead unless he left Venezuela in search of a better future for his wife and son. He also feared that he would be unable to replace the prosthesis that he has worn since losing his right leg in a road traffic accident in 2014. To pay for the journey, Maldonado sold some belongings. His father sold his […]

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