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A Drug Smuggler's Paradise

U.S. officials estimate up to three-quarters of the cocaine that enters through the country's southern border passes through Central America, by land or sea.

The corridor has become a smuggler's paradise: under-funded and often corrupt security forces, scant U.S. counter-drug operations, vast stretches of lawless jungle and shoreline, and a compliant population.

In the first of a three-part series, NPR's John Burnett reports that the countries once known as banana republics are fast becoming "cocaine republics."

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As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.