Unusual forced prostitution arrest made in Palmar Norte

A 61-year-old central Pacific man has been detained on allegations that he was luring foreign women to Costa Rica and forcing them into prostitution.

The arrest took place Wednesday night when judicial agents raided and searched a location in Palmar Norte in the province of Puntarenas. Agents said they confiscated evidence including clothing.

The raid also confirmed the existence of 12 foreign women, including Nicaraguans, Panamanians, Colombians and Dominicans. Agents said that the women were offered at a night club in the same community, but it was unclear if that is where the raid took place.

Also unavailable was the name of the detained man.

Agents said the investigation started in February when two Nicaraguan women showed up at Judicial Investigation Organization offices with a consular representative from their embassy. The women said they had been lured to Costa Rica with offers of jobs as domestic employees, agents said. They arrived in San José, and the man took them to Palmar Norte where they were told they had to work as prostitutes in a night club, said agents.

The women managed to escape and sought aid from their consulate.

Prostitution is not prosecuted in Costa Rica, but pimping or running a house of prostitution is. The central Pacific coast, centered at Jacó is home to many foreign prostitutes who seek customers in the tourism market. Unclear is why someone would import unwilling prostitutes when there are so many willing sex workers nearby.

Many night clubs are covers for prostitution on the Pacific
and in San José. These locations are infrequently troubled by the police. Also seeming immune are so-called massage parlors, which are thinly disguised centers of prostitution.

The last time such operations were raided in San José the official concern was not prostitution but failure to provide full access to the disabled.

Gradually foreign criminal gangs, Russian or Colombian, have consolidated the prostitution market and exact tribute from supposedly independent sex workers.

A.M. Costa Rica has documented the existence of a trafficking ring that spans the ocean from the Dominican Republic to Costa Rica. A Dominican prostitute recounted how she was able to obtain a visa there to travel here and how she paid the amount due on a bribe at a back door of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, the immigration agency.

Forced prostitution is a small percentage of human trafficking, although U.S. officials and others who study such issues usually do not make clear the differences. The majority of trafficking in Costa Rica are persons transporting Nicaraguans into the country illegally or transporting Asians and Africans through the country with the goal of reaching the United States. So the case in Palmar Norte is unusual.

Frequently such cases are resolved by a financial settlement with the victims in lieu of criminal action.

Another case of forced prostitution involved two Costa Rican women who were lured to México with the promise of good jobs. They, too, managed to escape, but that case still is unresolved. Officials said that another Costa Rican women was a recruiter here for the Mexican operation.

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