HomeNewsArgentina Spares Mother Who Served as Drug Mule to Save Son
NEWS

Argentina Spares Mother Who Served as Drug Mule to Save Son

ARGENTINA / 27 JUL 2021 BY ASHLEY PECHINSKI EN

Drug charges have been dropped against a woman in Argentina who smuggled three kilograms of cocaine to pay for her son's lifesaving surgery – a rare case of prosecutors considering the circumstances that drive women to serve as drug mules.

A judge acquitted the unidentified 63-year-old woman of aggravated attempted narcotics smuggling charges after Prosecutor Miguel Ángel Palazzani told the court that the Attorney General's Office no longer wished to prosecute her, according to a recent news release.

The woman from Salta was arrested in February 2019 at the Cardenal Antonio Samoré International Pass, a border road that links Argentina and Chile. Authorities found her on a bus with 2.7 kilograms of cocaine taped to her body.

About three weeks before her arrest, the woman went to the Bolivian border city of Yacuíba to pick up the cocaine, according to the prosecutor, who said phone records show she was in communication with a Bolivian national, or someone with a phone from that country, while in transit.

During the hearing, Palazzani said that the Attorney General's Office had decided to drop the charges against the woman because she was at a "social disadvantage" and in "desperate need" of funds due to her son's medical needs.

SEE ALSO: LatAm Prison System Failing Women Drug Convicts

Her son had suffered a punctured liver while playing soccer, according to Argentine news outlet elDiarioAR. After various surgeries to repair the damage failed, he required an additional operation that was not available in public hospitals, forcing the woman to turn to surgeons at expensive private hospitals that she couldn't afford.

Before the woman agreed to be a drug mule, she had sold everything of value and taken every path possible to raise funds for the operation, according to Palazzani, who said she was also "the principal economic and emotional supporter of her family," which allowed others to prey on her desperation and vulnerability.

InSight Crime Analysis

The woman's acquittal is a small victory for judicial reform advocates who have long said prosecutors should look at family and financial circumstances when prosecuting women on drug-related crimes.

As Argentina has cracked down on drug trafficking, the number of women behind bars has grown. From 1990 to 2012, the number of female prisoners in Argentina nearly doubled. Over half the women in prison in 2012 had been charged with drug crimes.

Of these women, nearly 90 percent said they had committed the crime out of economic necessity due to being a single mother or the prime breadwinner, according to a report by Cornell University and the Argentina Attorney General's Office.

Despite this information, "judges do not usually consider the family situation of women, particularly their sons and daughters, at the time of ruling on preventative detention, as well as during the judicial process," according to a report by Argentina's prison ombudsman (Procuración Penitenciaria de la Nación – PPN).

SEE ALSO: Women Behind Bars: the Human Cost of Drug Policy

Mexican women experience similar fates. According to a report by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), more than half of imprisoned women remained in pre-trial detention for long periods of time before going to trial. With 62 percent of them being first-time offenders on drug charges and 24 percent being single parents, the judicial system failed to consider the factors that led them to drug trafficking, leaving families to suffer the consequences of long-time imprisonment.

It remains to be seen whether the case of the Salta women is part of a broader effort by Argentina's Attorney General's Office to take gender into account when choosing to prosecute.

Palazzani was unequivocal in the hearing that he believes the criminal justice system should consider it, telling the judge that "a judicial decision that lacks a gender perspective is inadmissible in light of the obligations assumed by the State in relation to the protection of women." He then spoke about how women employed as drug mules are not only desperate but turned into criminals by simply being the weakest link in the trafficking chain.

"The man is involved but frequently remains unpunished, benefiting from the illegal work of the woman,” he said.

The Salta woman, though, provided a stark narrative for the prosecutor. She became a drug mule to save her son. Most cases won't be so cut and dried.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 11 SEP 2013

The failure of Argentina's government to provide important information for a money laundering investigation into an Argentine government linked contractor…

ARGENTINA / 15 APR 2016

One of the dangers of the new Argentine government's anti-drugs measures is that they enable military intervention in matters of…

EL SALVADOR / 7 JAN 2014

The tenuous "gang truce" in El Salvador, in place since March 2012, does not fit into a classic model of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.