Right-wing influencers, including Burgess Owens, descend on the Darién Gap

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The New York Times followed right-wing influencers, including Burgess Owens, as it toured camps on the edge of the Darién Gap, a roadless stretch of Panamanian jungle that has become a bottleneck for thousands of people on their way to the United States, observing and recording as participants interviewed migrants and shot video.

The Darién Gap is a roadless stretch of Panamanian jungle that has become a bottleneck for thousands of people on their way to the United States

The caption read: “Somali illegal aliens proclaim support for Ilhan Omar and Joe Biden inside Panama migrant camp!” Those travelers have included, along with Loomer, Republican Reps. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin and Burgess Owens of Utah, reporters, producers and podcast hosts for The Epoch Times, a right-wing newspaper, and correspondents for Real America’s Voice, the digital media company that hosts Steve Bannon’s podcast.

The Times followed one group as it toured camps on the edge of the Darién Gap, observing and recording as participants interviewed migrants and shot video. The reporters, producers and influencers gravitated toward migrants from Africa, China and the Middle East, barraging them with politically loaded questions.

Reached the next day on a bus bound for Costa Rica, Ibrahim said he regretted the experience. “She wanted to give a bad picture about immigrants to the world,” he said of Loomer. “Her questions weren’t fair.” The focus on Muslim and Chinese migrants may create a distorted impression. Roughly 90% of the 520,000 people who crossed through the Darién Gap last year were South Americans and Caribbeans, according to the Panamanian government. The vast majority of that group comes from Venezuela, Ecuador and Haiti, countries experiencing economic and political upheaval.

A swaggering Special Forces veteran, Yon has long had a knack for getting attention. In his autobiography, he recounts killing a man with his bare hands in a bar fight. He later made headlines as a front-line blogger and photographer at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That year was a turning point for migration through the Darién Gap, an inhospitable stretch of mountainous wilderness that is riddled with poisonous snakes and roving gangs of criminals. What had been a trickle of just a few thousand people crossing the gap each year gushed to 133,000, an increase fueled largely by Haitians fleeing economic chaos.

Loomer, for her part, initially sought to raise $14,500 to fund a seven-day trip but blew past that goal, extending her stay by three days and raising close to $28,000.She said she did not make a profit.

 

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