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Couple Charged With Slavery Of Their Nicaraguan Domestic Employee

She was sixteen when she came to Costa Rica from her native Nicaragua with the promise of work. Yesterday, at the age of 22, the girl, now a woman, was rescued from being a domestic slave for the last six years.

The woman was identified by her last names Centeno Barrera, was brought to Costa Rica from her hometown of Matagalpa by a Nicaraguan couple living in Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica.

The couple, identified as Portobanco Torres (wife) and Medina Kraudy (husband) would keep their domestic employee/slave locked up in the house when they went out, work, shopping, etc.

The young woman didn't have any way of communication with the outside world until she was able to contact neighbours through the window of the house where she was kept in slavery.

The Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) took the call from neighbours seriously and began an investigation that resulted in a raid of the home on Monday.

Jorge Rojas, director of the OIJ, said the couple have been charged with "trata de personas" (white slavery).

"We raided the home and the young woman told us she had been held captive for the last six years", Rojas told the press.

Apparenlty, the young woman told authorities that she was never received pay for her services.

The couple have denied the accusations against them, saying it is all a lie made up by the young woman.

"The neighbours made a spectacle of the situation, we brought her here by land from Nicaragua to give her a better future. We paid half her salary to her, the other half sent to her mother in Nicaragua, here she has no family or documents, she is alone", said the employer.

"Several times we took her to the Parque de Diversiones so that she could play with my daughter, she never left the house alone because she didn't want to, the doors were always open to her. Many times when I came home from work I would find her sleeping, leaving her keys on the door, she was never locked up", the woman said.

The couple, after the arrest, were released on bail having to sign in at the local courthouse every two weeks and had to surrender their passport and not have any contact with the victim or her family.

This case is typical of many situations where Nicaraguans come to Costa Rica in search for work and find themselves in slave like conditions, though not to such extremes.

Many young Nicaraguan girls, some under age, make their way to Costa Rica with the consent and blessings of their families back home, in the hopes of better their (the family's) economic condition, as salaries and job opportunities in Costa Rica are much better than up north.

Many of the domestic employees dream of going home one day, to be the rescuer of the family, to build a home, a better chance for the children they have left behind with their mothers and grandmothers.

Some do realize their dream, many others end up staying in Costa Rica, working for minimum wages (or less in some cases) and continue their live of servitude, working as domestic employees.

In past year Costa Rica has passed legislation giving domestic employees - both foreign and national - rights that include a decent workplace, work hours and pay.


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