Central American law enforcement have uncovered a massive smuggling ring that highlights the myriad threats posed to America by untrammeled illegal immigration.
With the reported involvement and support of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, authorities from Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala carried out a series of raids in concert with each other. The operation, called “Operation Mesoamerica”, resulted in the exposure of a human trafficking network that spanned Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The last region is of especial concern to American security officials, as it has long been feared that terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda will exploit refugee movements to infiltrate the US and other Western countries. These concerns have been further compounded by the revelation that many of the migrants processed by the smuggling ring came from countries like Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Somalia, all of which have been officially linked to terrorism.
The network, which is claimed to be one of the most far-reaching and efficient of it’s kind, is said to have had the ability to transfer as many as 150 immigrants at any given moment. This led a Costa Rican prosecutor to refer to it as the “most powerful migrant trafficking organization in the region,” a bold claim to make given the amount of smuggling rings in the area:
“At least 29 people from across Central America were arrested on June 28 for their involvement in the human trafficking network, which primarily transported migrants of Asian or African nationalities.
The network’s alleged ringleader, Luis Leonardo Mejía Pasapera, alias ‘Leo,’ was arrested by Guatemalan authorities along with eight other suspects. Meanwhile, the remaining 20 were reportedly detained in El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama.
Among the arrestees were employees of Central American border agencies who provided false documents to the illegal immigrants, notes La Pagina.
Guatemalan authorities noted that there are still suspected members of the trafficking network who have yet to be arrested.
The illegal immigrants were moved from Brazil, through Central America and into the United Sates, according to authorities.
Investigators explained that many of the illegal migrants met in Dubai where they were provided with documents to enter Brazil. From there, they boarded planes to Colombia before entering neighboring Panama by land.
The trafficking gang then smuggled the migrants through Central America, using either Pacific or Atlantic sea routes.
Once they reached Mexico, the migrants were used as mules by criminal groups to smuggle drugs into the United States, according to Costa Rican authorities.
Each migrant reportedly paid between $7,000 to $25,000 for the entire trip into the United States.
The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala reportedly said Operation Mesoamerica was intended ‘to break a chain of illegal human trafficking.’”