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These foreigners were nationalities from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras.
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Published Thursday, July 8, 2021

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This year, the Immigration Police have detained 17 foreigners as suspects of association with the Mara Salvatrucha, MS13, gang.

According to the General Directorate of Migration, the detained were from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. Of the total of suspects detained two Salvadorans remain in jail while the deportation process was completed.

The most recent arrest happened on Tuesday when the Police detained a foreigner, a Salvadoran man surnamed Zelaya-Orellana on suspicion of belonging to the MS13.

Zelaya Orellana was located in Alajuela Province after a red alert was issued by the International Police, Interpol, about a current arrest warrant for the crime of aggravated extortion, and a record for crimes of trafficking and illegal groups association.

He was taken to the Migration Police cells where he will remain until his deportation process is coordinated.

“For some years now, the Police have been working to locate and detain people with high profiles on threatening national security, in order to carry out the corresponding deportations," said Stephen Madden, director of the Migration Police. "We will continue to carry out these actions of investigations, arrest and rejection of those who are linked to this type of criminal organization.”

According to the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at the American University in Washington DC, the Mara Salvatrucha, commonly known as MS-13, is an international criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles, California, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Some sources state the gang is named for La Mara, a street in San Salvador, and the Salvatrucha guerrillas who fought in the Salvadoran Civil War from 1979 to 1992.

Originally, the gang was set up to protect Salvadoran immigrants from other gangs in the Los Angeles area. Over time, the gang grew into a more traditional criminal organization. 

The judicial agents call on the population to report any suspicion of members of MS-13 in Costa Rica to the confidential line 800-8000-645. Their bilingual agents can answer calls in English or Spanish.

What have you heard about members of MS-13 activity in your community? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to


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