- Title: Costa Rica and Panama bust migrant-smuggling ring, arrest dozens
- Date: 30th July 2019
- Summary: SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA (JULY 30, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) STEPHEN MADDEN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF COSTA RICA'S MIGRATION POLICE, SAYING: "Once in our country, these people would be transferred internally towards the northern border of our country, the organisation would start a very similar process that took place in the south. They (migrants) would be hidden for a certain amount of time, and then they would be taken to Honduras and countries in the north, generally via land and on several occasions via sea."
- Embargoed: 13th August 2019 21:48
- Keywords: Costa Rica Panama arrested nearly 50 people international network suspected of smuggling migrants Central America United States
- Location: LA CRUZ/ SAN JOSE/ PASO CANOAS/ PENAS BLANCAS, COSTA RICA
- City: LA CRUZ/ SAN JOSE/ PASO CANOAS/ PENAS BLANCAS, COSTA RICA
- Country: Costa Rica
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA005APZ1BNR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Costa Rican and Panamanian officials on Tuesday (July 30) morning arrested nearly 50 people linked to an international network suspected of smuggling migrants through Central America and toward the United States, prosecutors said.
In one of the largest operations against people smugglers conducted in the country, Costa Rican migration police and prosecutors raided 36 locations on the border with Panama and Nicaragua, arresting 37 suspected members of the network.
In Panama, federal police arrested 12 people connected to the same network, local authorities said.
The number of migrants crossing the region to reach the United States has grown in recent years, stoking tensions between the Trump administration and Mexico and Central America.
U.S. President Donald Trump has used the threat of trade tariffs to push Mexico and Guatemala to crack down on migrants heading toward the United States.
Stephen Madden, deputy director of Costa Rica's migration police, said the criminal network charged between $7,000 and $20,000 to transport each migrant.
The ring moved individuals from various Asian and African countries, as well as from Cuba and Haiti, he added.
Panama said its crackdown involved 24 operatives from the prosecutor's office and over 50 federal police officers. On Twitter, the Panamanian attorney general's office said migrants were paying smugglers $1,500 and above to pass through Panama.
According to a Costa Rican police report, the investigation opened in 2018. It discovered two routes used by the network: one by land, and another by sea to Honduras, via the northern port of Puerto Soley.
The report said migrants were then picked up by other organizations in Guatemala to cross into Mexico and as far as the southern border of the United States.
(Production: Hector Guzman, Rodolfo Pena Roja)
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