What it costs to be smuggled across the U. S. border

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Bribes and shakedowns. Days in hideaways without food. For many fleeing violence in Central America, this is what thousands of dollars gets them on the journey to the United States.

MATAMOROS, Mexico — Shortly before dawn one Sunday last August, a driver in an S.U.V. picked up Christopher Cruz at a stash house in this border city near the Gulf of Mexico. The 22-year-old from El Salvador was glad to leave the one-story building, where smugglers kept bundles of cocaine and marijuana alongside their human cargo, but he was anxious about what lay ahead.

The driver deposited Mr. Cruz at an illegal crossing point on the edge of the Rio Grande. A smuggler took a smartphone photograph to confirm his identity and sent it using WhatsApp to a driver waiting to pick him up on the other side of the frontier when — if — he made it across.

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Mexico on the Brink of Chaos

Mexico’s On The Brink Of Chaos

 A frightening number of drug-related deaths in Mexico

Raymond Alvarez: The quickly rising numbers graphically displayed on a Los Angeles Times web page are telling. Mexico’s drug war story is darkened by numbers, staggering numbers. There were 7,337 drug-related deaths in 2008, the Times reports. The death toll from terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year approaches the average weekly body count in Juarez, which is just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

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