Costa Rica police dismantle Nicaragua trafficking ring

San José (AFP) - Costa Rican authorities arrested 14 people, including five police officers, accused of creating a network trafficking Nicaraguan migrants, authorities said Saturday.

During an operation in the border province of Guanacaste, Judicial Investigation Department (OIJ) agents found 50 undocumented workers in cramped conditions who had allegedly been taken from Nicaragua to Costa Rica and were awaiting transport to the capital San Jose.

During 17 separate raids, three police officers were arrested in the Bagaces community and two others in the city of Liberia on suspicion of collaborating with suspected gang members.

Three suspected Nicaraguan gang members and another six Costa Ricans were arrested in San Jose.

"We do not rule out the possibility of more people being detained," the OIJ said in a statement.

Officials said the Nicaraguan side was responsible for recruiting would-be migrants to Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica, they were greeted by another group in charge of hiding and then transporting them to San Jose.

The migrants, some of whom traveled with their children, paid the traffickers between $130 and $150.

The migrants were transported across the border mostly at night in groups of up to twelve people in all terrain vehicles with darkened windows. Some of these were seized by officers in the raids.

In a report, the OIJ said it had first investigated the organization 10 years ago but had been unable to gather sufficient evidence to dismantle the network.

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.

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