White collar “Mules” are now being arrested on drug possession charges in Mexico
Illegal drugs couriers are no longer Central American, Colombian or Mexican, but also Romanian, Spanish, Italian and even Asians traveling as middle class or upper class tourists.
If we could see the faces of all those arrested at Mexico City International Airport for drug possession in the last 10 years, we would realize that the profile of illegal drugs couriers, or “mules”, has changed.
In 2008 members of the Federal Police (PF) detected a half kilo (1.1 pounds) of cocaine attached to the abdomen of Lo Sasso Carmine, a 39-year-old Italian that sought to reach Naples, Italy along with Robert Warren, an American citizen. Three years later another mule, Charonitis Zacharias, intended to take half kilo of cocaine to Greece hidden in a suitcase. Last year two Japanese citizens were arrested with 220 tablets of methamphetamine.
Federal Police data obtained via transparency showed that from 2006 to 2014, 259 people were arrested at Mexico City airport on drug possession charges. However, a newsletter issued in 2011 by the same agency reported 700 arrests for the same crime in that year only.
Mules are no longer Central American, Colombian or Mexican, but also Romanian, Spanish, Italian and even Asians traveling as middle class or upper class tourists. They are called “freelance” mules.
Experts in the field agree that the new generation of “small dealers” is comprised of graduates, professionals and even entrepreneurs who carry small amounts of drugs, and therefore move easily through security at airports.
Antonio Mazzitelli, representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Mexico, said in an interview with Mexico City Newspaper EL UNIVERSAL that this transformation is a result of the democratization experienced by markets, “in the sense that there are more, especially when it comes to air traffic.”
“The mule market has refined itself,” said Norberto Emmerich, a specialist in Latin American drug trafficking of the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Quito, Ecuador.
Since drug controls are centered in Colombian or Central American travelers, freelancers go unnoticed at international airports due to their middle-class appearance that makes them look like ordinary tourists or students, Emmerich explained.
However, the experts consulted by EL UNIVERSAL agreed that drug traffickers no longer use air transport steadily.
“Cocaine, heroin and other drugs are moved by foreign trade companies in seaborne containers, so (air traffic) is no longer important for large drug cartels,” Emmerich said.
Nonetheless Mazzitelli said that since flying continues to be the cheapest and most efficient means of transport, it will continue to be used by drug traffickers.