HomeNewsBriefDrug Mules Could Be 'Victims' Under New Ecuador Criminal Code
BRIEF

Drug Mules Could Be 'Victims' Under New Ecuador Criminal Code

ECUADOR / 24 APR 2014 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

Recent reforms to Ecuador's Criminal Code could allow for arrested drug "mules" to be considered victims rather than criminals, a pioneering step towards recognition that people are often forced into smuggling drugs, but one that could create a tricky legal gray area.

Ecuador's new Criminal Code (pdf) -- which was approved in January 2014 and is expected to come into force sometime in 2015 -- will penalize drug trafficking according to the quantities carried, reported El Comercio. The amount of drugs that constitute the "minor," "medium," "large" and "extra-large" amounts stipulated by the new law still needs to be defined by the Narcotics Control Council (Consep).

Ecuador's repealed Law 108 on Narcotic and Psychoactive Substances made no distinction between large-scale traffickers and small-scale transporters, while 40 percent of the law's articles were focused on criminal punishment rather than prevention and rehabilitation.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Ecuador

According to El Comercio, the aim of the new Code is also to open up the possibility of the subject being included in the victims and witness protection program, on the condition that information is provided leading to the arrest of those responsible.

"For the first time, this law defines the 'mule' as being a potential victim," said National Public Defender Ernesto Pazmiño.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although smuggling drugs internationally can yield extremely high profits, many people throughout Latin America are forced into the task by criminal groups who are threatening them or their loved ones, or to resolve a debt.

The issue has at times been recognized by other countries in the region, as was the case with a Mexican architect coerced into smuggling cocaine into the United States, who was given a lenient sentence of six months in prison by a US court.

Ecuador's new legislation appears to take an extra step in this direction, overthrowing a previous Code that had been heavily criticized by current President Rafael Correa and other politicians for its disproportionate sentences.

However, the reforms may create new legal difficulties in distinguishing between willing and unwilling mules. As it is dependent on cooperation as a witness, people who carry drugs purely for personal gain may claim victim status for their own benefit, while those forced into it may stay silent for fear of repercussions for them or their families.

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.

Tags

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

ECUADOR / 28 MAR 2011

This report by the Refugee Council USA, a coalition of NGOs, focuses on the situation of the many Colombian refugees in…

ARGENTINA / 28 JAN 2020

Unrest gripped much of Latin America and the Caribbean throughout 2019. From record violence in Mexico that recalled the darkest…

DRUG POLICY / 30 NOV 2011

Police in Ecuador claim to have seized significantly more cocaine this year than last, but total cocaine seizures are still…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.