San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Raid on Drug Dealers Nets Arrest of 16 Foreigners

A raid in a drug-riddled area north of San José was conducted by government officials on Wednesday, two days after a 78-year-old man was shot and killed when caught in a drug-related firefight.

The operation involved some 80 officials from the Public Security Ministry, the municipality of San José, the Health Ministry, the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) and the Immigration Police.

Sniffer dogs found marijuana and crack cocaine in some of the half dozen businesses raided by police, according to Public Security Ministry spokesman Carlos Hidalgo, who said 16 Dominican and Colombian citizens were arrested. He added that a number of illegal weapons were also found.

The Dominicans and Colombians entered the country illegally and had no immigration papers, Hildago said.

The coordinated raid was aimed at combatting lawlessness in an area well-known as a haven for crack dealers from the Dominican Republic and Colombia.It came after the murder of knick-knack salesman José Aguilar, who was caught in the crossfire of a shootout between two members of drug gangs.

Asked prior to the raid about the blatant drug trafficking by foreigners in the area only four blocks north of the Banco Nacional in downtown San José, officials said capturing traffickers is problematic as possession of small quantities of drugs is not illegal.

Immigration officials said their hands are tied because they cannot deport alleged criminals until after they are convicted. OIJ officials said the problem falls under the jurisdiction of the Public Security Ministry, which, in turn, said it can’t take action without proof.

Hidalgo denied that the death of Aguilar served as a catalyst for the officials to finally take action, saying that the authorities had made previous arrests in the area.

–John McPhaul


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