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The number of foreign women detained as drug mules in Brazil has soared.
December 21, 2009 4:37 AM   Subscribe

"I knew I could be arrested, even die, because with these things you expect everything. But at that moment I was so desperate about the money, and to do something for my life."

The number of foreign women detained as drug mules in Brazil has soared.
Worldwide, the majority of those convicted of drug muling are women, either naive, tricked, or desperate to escape poverty. The penalties for muling can be extremely harsh, but the prospect of financial reward can make the dangerous trip worth it, as can threats of violence. A UK government survey estimated that 10% of travelers from Jamaica to the UK were drug carriers perhaps explaining why more than half the female UK prison population are Jamaican drug mules. Arguments have been made that mules should be seen as victims of the drug trade, and that harsh sentences are not a deterrent.
posted by jonesor (18 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
i wonder who they blame?
posted by billybobtoo at 5:01 AM on December 21, 2009


crime/time etc
posted by unSane at 5:15 AM on December 21, 2009


Any flight from Suriname or Curacao to Amsterdam gets a "100%" check on entry - the passengers and luggage are separated from all the other traffic on the airport, and checked thoroughly. Before they did so, you could spot the Balloon swallowers on the flight - they tended to sleep a lot, and not eat or drink anything.

They still catch a few every week, but most mules now follow a different route, and the coke still gets in.
posted by DreamerFi at 6:15 AM on December 21, 2009


crime/time etc

Indeed, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime of living in desperate poverty, willing to do anything to get a crust of food for your child.
posted by DU at 6:26 AM on December 21, 2009 [24 favorites]


Indeed, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime of living in desperate poverty, willing to do anything to get a crust of food for your child.

In fairness, the people who are hired as mules are not usually the poorest of the poor. For one, you need a passport and a visa (or those need to be provided to you as part of the job, which adds cost and complexity) and for another you need to be able to deal with immigration and airport security (so being able to read helps, for example). So it tends to be more semi-poor people who do this -- they have the social capital that the drug runners want, but are poor enough that earning a few thousand dollars seems like an adequate return for the risk of getting caught.
posted by Forktine at 6:34 AM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank God drugs are illegal. Otherwise, lives could be ruined. Can you imagine if it were legal to bring drugs to the UK (and everywhere else) or to grow them there? All these young women would be deprived of the opportunity to risk their lives and then be thrown in jail. There would be 50% fewer women in prison. And those poor South American drug cartels would lose their revenue stream and very purpose!

Well, at least it's impossible for people to get drugs in the UK what with the enormous success of this kind of law enforcement.
posted by callmejay at 6:51 AM on December 21, 2009 [18 favorites]


There was a case back in the early 00s with an Ecstasy smuggling ring bringing drugs from Europe to the US. The organization, headed up by a couple of fratricidal Israelis and a friend of Heidi Fleiss who claimed to be in the Mossad, had two go-to groups for muling: Orthodox Jewish newlyweds and Jersey party girls. "Hey want a free honeymoon to Europe/trip to party in Amsterdam? Just pick up this suitcase in Belgium while you're there!" IIRC, they told the Orthodox couples there was a false compartment in the case that was full of diamonds---leveraging on the connection between the NY Diamond District and the cutters in Europe.

The worst part of the case was not the ones who got caught---although that sucked for them at the time---but the ones who got through, did it once and never again, and then got a knock on the door five years later from the feds, who had put together enough on the whole group to finger many of the successful mules. Nice to have folks who have cleaned up, who did one questionable thing several years before, dragged out of their homes and from their kids so they can testify against that one dude they met (in return for a slightly less severe sentence).
posted by vilthuril at 7:04 AM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Serious? If you can't sustain it, don't use it up, Yankee.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:46 AM on December 21, 2009


Are they victims, or criminals? Or is every criminal a victim is some way -- due to some desperation in their lives, they turn to crime. That justifies it, no?
posted by eas98 at 8:09 AM on December 21, 2009


correction: "more than half of all foreign women in UK prisons are Jamaican drug mules."
posted by antihostile at 8:12 AM on December 21, 2009


Ugly in here, right off the bat.
Also, thanks for that correction, antihostile - the figure in the post seemed too too much.
posted by zoinks at 9:58 AM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


As usual in the drug business, the greatest risk is assumed by those who get the least reward.
posted by bearwife at 10:32 AM on December 21, 2009


Maria Full of Grace was a good movie about this.
posted by Bitter soylent at 10:56 AM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maria Full of Grace was a good movie about this.

Second that.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:09 AM on December 21, 2009


antihostile: correction: "more than half of all foreign women in UK prisons are Jamaican drug mules."

Yeah, sorry about that. It's still a lot though.
posted by jonesor at 12:17 PM on December 21, 2009


Indeed, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime of living in desperate poverty, willing to do anything to get a crust of food for your child.

Well, these were well off British women who apparently just had a lot of credit card debt to pay off.
but the ones who got through, did it once and never again, and then got a knock on the door five years later from the feds, who had put together enough on the whole group to finger many of the successful mules. Nice to have folks who have cleaned up, who did one questionable thing several years before, dragged out of their homes and from their kids so they can testify against that one dude they met (in return for a slightly less severe sentence).
I think it would be hard to get a conviction in that kind of situation without a confession.
posted by delmoi at 2:32 PM on December 21, 2009


Not when you have testimony from cooperators in the organization that they put Ms. P---- on a plane, told her where to go, picked her up, and took the drugs from her. But maybe the gov't wants her testimony because she was recruited by a higher-up.

Saw another mule get off in a jury trial. He was a flight attendant from South America and claimed that he thought he was making $$$$ bringing cans of "clarified butter" to the US (because immigrants pay top dollar for food from the mother country? ha!). Another FA recruited him. That guy was tried separately and got a serious sentence. This mule got off because his heavily pregnant PD tugged on the jury's heart strings about the poor, innocent, duped boy. He was about 30 but looked 17. No conviction.
posted by vilthuril at 3:06 PM on December 21, 2009


Once, at the airport flying out of Bogotá to Chile, some middle class looking Chilean women tried to talk me into checking in large boxes that were supposed to contain TV sets because they'd "exceeded their weight allowance".
I don't think I'd ever laughed so hard in a stranger's face.
posted by signal at 7:09 PM on December 21, 2009


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