Five police officers from the Liberia and Bagaces detachments in Guanacaste were found to be part of a network trafficking Nicaraguan migrants into Costa Rica.
The officers were part of 14 people arrested Saturday morning in 17 simultaneous raids in Guanacaste, by the Ogranismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ).
During the police operation agents found 67 illegal workers in cramped conditions who had allegedly been taken from Nicaragua to Costa Rica and were awaiting transport San José. After being interrogated, they will be deported to Nicaragua.
The detained face criminal charges for human trafficking and face up to ten years in prison.
Attorney General, Jorge Chavarria and interim director of the OIJ, Gerald Campos, said the network had been operating for the past decade, earning millions of colones every weekend, moving migrants from the boder of Peñas Blancas, to la Cruz and to downtown San José.
Campos added that although they knew of the existence of the network for some time, it was only during the past six months that they were able to gather sufficient evidence to dismantle the network.
Campos and Chavarria, in a statement to the press, said, “we do not rule out the possibility of more people being detained”.
The network was made up of two groups.
In Nicaragua, that group was responsible for seeking out those interested in entering Costa Rica illegally, taking them to Peñas Blancas, where they would then walk across the immigration post, crossing into Costa Rican soil illegally.
On the Costa Rican side, the illegals were then transported, mostly at night in groups of eight to twelve people, in vehicles with modified suspensions and tinted windows, to San José.
“They put up to 11 people in a car, with some in the trunk. An inhumane trip”, said Campos.
The police officers arrested were, among other things, responsible to inform on road blocks and ensuring that the illegals could get on a bus with regular service to San José, where the driver was part of or knew about the trafficking operation.
In San José, the illegals were put at hotels in the area of the Coca Cola, where they remained until they found a permanent place to live.
In the Coca Cola is where all the bus terminals to Guanacaste, the Nicaraguan border and direct service into Nicaragua are located. Also the area is well known for cheap rooms and shops.
The police officers arrested were identified by their last names: Ávila, Espinoza, Araya, Sandino y Parrales. Además, están otros siete ticos, apellidados Mairena, Díaz, Martínez, Núñez, Obando, Corea and Cepeda. Cepeda was convicted last month of a similar offence and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Nicaraguan migrants settle in Costa Rica in search of job opportunities unavailable in their country, where 43 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 53 percent is unemployed or underemployed.
About half a million Nicaraguans are estimated to be working in Costa Rica, a country of 4.5 million inhabitants. Many have undocumented status.