With reporting from Ronny Rojas, Estevan Muniz, José Guarnizo
On a Tuesday in January 2018, some people got out of a white Mitsubishi and entered a house near the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, on the Costa Rican side. After a while, a couple came out and left in the same vehicle. The Costa Rican immigration police, who were spying on them at the time, suspected that those who did not leave had illegally crossed through the patio of that house towards Nicaragua.
Nine days earlier, they started monitoring the suspects as the Costa Rican prosecutor’s office had begun investigating a migrant smuggling network, after receiving confidential information that the traffickers were paying officers $35 to leak information. The bribed officials told the criminals where the on-duty police officers were. Also, they let “their” migrants through, or they informed the human smugglers when and by what routes to transport migrants through Costa Rican territory without being detected by the authorities.
The woman who left the border house that Tuesday was Ana Yansy López Martínez, a 48-year-old Nicaraguan who lives in La Cruz, Costa Rica, and whom migrants and coyotes, or human smugglers, call “Mama Africa.” The man who accompanied her was her husband, Adnan Abdul Wahab, originally from Ghana, known in the area as “Mohamed.”
Two years earlier, in 2016, the Costa Rican authorities had already raided that house, due to another investigation into the crime of migrant smuggling. Many families in the area charge to allow people to cross through the patios of their homes from Costa Rica to Nicaragua and vice versa. That is how those families end up getting involved in the illicit business of trafficking networks.