Authorities in El Salvador dismantle smuggling ring, arrest 10 including 2 police officers
FILE - Migrants from El Salvador wait to be attended by Salvadoran migration authorities in La Hachadura, El Salvador, Wednesday, October 31, 2018. Police in El Salvador on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, arrested 10 people accused of operating a migrant smuggling ring that charged migrants up to $15,000 for the promise of safe travel to the U.S. (AP Photo/Diana Ulloa, File)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Police in El Salvador on Tuesday arrested 10 people accused of operating a migrant smuggling ring that charged migrants up to $15,000 for the promise of safe travel to the US.

Two of the alleged smugglers, or "coyotes," arrested were active members of the Salvadoran national police, the Attorney General's Office said. Another was an ex-officer.

The raid was coordinated between police in the capital, San Salvador, and two other cities, Santa Ana in the west and San Miguel in the east of the country, respectively. Police also seized four vehicles and more than a dozen cellphones.

According to an investigation opened in July 2022, the smugglers trafficked migrants through blind spots on the Guatemalan border, then through Mexico and the US, charging between $12,000 and $15,000 per person.

The attorney general's office said they began investigating after at least 33 migrants reported they had paid for transport, but were not taken to the US.

El Salvador is turning to novel strategies to deter migration, as the US steps up pressure to control the flow of people to its southern border. Since the end of October, for example, citizens of 57 mostly African countries arriving in the country have been charged a $1,130 " airport improvement" fee.

Aviation authorities would not say whether the fee was designed to deter migrants, many of whom are known to use Nicaragua as a transit point because of its lax visa requirements.

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