El Salvador busts alleged migrant smuggling network, nabs 25

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — At least 25 people were arrested across El Salvador on Thursday, including businesspeople, lawyers and a former police officer, as part of an operation to break up an alleged migrant smuggling network.

Authorities said they conducted raids in a number of municipalities and seized 23 vehicles and 14 properties with a collective value of about $1 million. The director of the attorney general's office anticorruption unit said 32 arrest warrants were issued.

Authorities said the alleged smugglers charged migrants $8,000 to $12,000 to take them to the United States, though many were abandoned en route.

The raids came a day after President Nayib Bukele met with U.S. acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. The two countries announced the signing of a letter of intent to cooperate in combatting irregular migration and transnational criminal organizations.

The U.S. government has been pressuring countries in the region to slow the flow of migrants traveling to the U.S. border.

It has been estimated that at least 300 Salvadorans leave the country each day bound for the United States, fleeing poverty and violence.

That number is believed to have dropped somewhat since the United States implemented measures to reduce the entry of migrants and asylum seekers.