Why hasn't the Darien Gap been paved?

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The region is the only interruption on the Pan-American Highway, which connects the entire American continent

Why hasn't the Darien Gap been paved?

Leer en español: ¿Por qué no se ha pavimentado el Tapón del Darién?

The Pan-American Route is the way that allows and facilitates the process of transportation and integration of the countries of the continent. This road connects all the American countries starting in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina and ending in Alaska, United States, counting with about 48,000 km. Considering this, it is considered the most important land route in the continent, largely due to the benefits in terms of economic and political integration.

Currently, the only point that interrupts this route is the Region of the Tapón del Darién that has about 4000 km ², located on the borders of the countries of Panama and Colombia.

In this region stands out, on the one hand, its biodiversity, the growing presence of agroindustrial crops, the great cultural wealth of indigenous peoples, and, on the other hand, the constant presence of groups outside the law and for being a used space for the traffic of migrants from different countries of the world and illegal substances.

This situation allowed the Darién Gap to become the scenario where displaced people, indigenous and afro-descendant communities, armed groups (both legal and illegal) interact, irregular immigrants whose goal is to reach the United States, a large amount of drugs, constant traffic of unregulated armaments and traders of natural and agricultural resources.

Despite the attempt of Colombia and Panama to counteract this situation, the complexity of the terrain makes it very difficult to monitor and control what is happening in the area. Understanding that the paving of the zone would facilitate the transit and would make the trafficking of people and illicit substances more difficult, the question that arises here is why the Darién Gap has not been paved?

There are three factors that have hindered the construction of the 108 kilometers, 50 in Colombian territory and 58 in Panamanian territory, which are missing to complete the construction of the Pan-American Highway:

The first factor is the environmental factor. The paving of the area would imply the deforestation of several hectares of forests and plants, affecting the fauna and flora of the region, of which a large number are endemic.

The second factor is the social one. This refers to the large number of communities in the area, mostly indigenous (such as the emebrá, wounan and kunas or tule) and Afro, do not want the paving of the area to take place. The reason lies in the fact that, for many of these communities, the jungle is an ancestral territory and destroying it would mean changing their life styles and customs, in addition to the fear that the increase of people who would transit there would entail and the risk of the violation of their rights. syncretism.

Although they know that this situation carries out an isolation in subjects like healthiness and measured attention, these communities prevail the culture and their customs on anything.

This does not mean that the entire population of the region is in disagreement with the initiative, for several of the farmers and traders in the area the paving would represent a great boost to the economy of their communities and an improvement in the quality of life of their people. .

Finally, the diplomatic factor or political will. It has been said that the completion of the Pan-American Highway would imply that the problems of Colombia would be transferred to Panama and, respectively, to Central America and the United States in a much simpler manner. Therefore, it is not that resources are lacking to complete the construction of the road, but rather that the political will of the governments prevents the construction of the work.

A complex Pan-American Route looks far away. Weighing the possible repercussions of the culmination of the Pan-American highway will depend to a large extent on the interests of the countries involved. To complete it would imply an improvement in terms of political integration and economy for the countries of the region, the important thing is to evaluate the environmental and cultural costs.


Latin American Post | Juan Sebastián Salguero

Translated from "¿Por qué no se ha pavimentado el Tapón del Darién?"