HomeNewsBriefExecution of Colombian Shows China’s Commitment to Harsh Drug Policies
BRIEF

Execution of Colombian Shows China’s Commitment to Harsh Drug Policies

CHINA AND CRIME / 1 MAR 2017 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

The Chinese government has executed a Colombian citizen for drug trafficking, amid indications that Colombia’s role in the internal drug trade of the world’s most populous country may be growing. 

Ismael Arciniegas, a 74-year-old native of Cali, Colombia, was killed by lethal injection on February 27 on orders from the Chinese government. He had been detained in a prison in China since 2010, when he was arrested for trying to enter the Asian country with approximately four kilograms of cocaine, El Tiempo reported.

According to the Associated Press, Arciniegas is “the first Colombian, and possibly the first Latin American, to be executed in China for drug offenses.”

Colombian officials vehemently protested the Chinese government’s decision to execute the septuagenarian, who appears to have been a low-level player in the drug trade.

Unlike in China, the death penalty for criminal convictions is constitutionally outlawed in Colombia. However, an online poll carried out by Colombian media outlet Blu Radio showed that a slight majority of the more than 7,700 respondents agreed with the Chinese government’s application of the death penalty in this case.

In February 28 comments reported by the Associated Press, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry responded to a question about Arciniegas’ case by saying, “Chinese judicial authorities have been cracking down in accordance with law … China always attaches importance to the protection of human rights and the right of life. The legitimate right and interest of the individual involved in the case has been guaranteed.”

In a public statement, Colombia’s foreign ministry said that 15 Colombians have been condemned to death in China for drug trafficking, and that another 15 have received life sentences.

Officials from both countries have previously attempted to reach agreements that would help repatriate Colombian citizens convicted of crimes in China. And according to the Associated Press, China has repatriated two Colombians convicted of drug trafficking since November 2016 for humanitarian reasons. However, no formal agreements governing the handling of such situations currently exist between the two nations.

According to Colombian foreign ministry officials, the number of Colombians imprisoned in China has risen from just four in 2006 to more than 160 today, with some 90 percent of the total detained on drug charges.

InSight Crime Analysis

China has long been known for its harsh anti-drug policies. In 2010, Human Rights Watch released a report describing compulsory “rehabilitation” centers for people convicted of drug crimes “that deny them access to treatment for drug dependency and put them at risk of physical abuse and unpaid forced labor.” In subsequent years, the Chinese government has made some reforms to its penal system, but reports suggest inhumane conditions persist in many facilities.

Accurate and up-to-date statistics on drug use in China are difficult to obtain, but the Chinese government is clearly worried that demand for illicit substances could be increasing as the country’s middle class grows. The Asian nation currently has the world’s second-largest consumer market after the United States, meaning there is huge potential profit to be made from the drug trade.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Criminal Migration

As China’s political and economic ties to Latin America have strengthened in recent years, indications have surfaced of growing links between criminal organizations on both sides of the Pacific. Chemical manufacturers in China have reportedly supplied precursor drug materials to Latin American crime groups; Latin American criminals have allegedly laundered money through China; and Chinese “mafias” are known to operate in Latin American countries like Argentina.

China’s main drugs of choice — namely, opiates like heroin and synthetic drugs like methamphetamine — are produced either within China or near its borders. This means that it would likely be difficult for crime groups from Latin America to break into the Chinese market with drugs like cocaine, which is produced almost entirely in South America’s Andean region. Nonetheless, the exponential rise in detained Colombians in China suggests the drug may be starting to see an uptick in popularity.

Compartir icon icon icon

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

COLOMBIA / 19 JAN 2021

A new alliance between two of Colombia's main criminal groups is seeking to contest the ELN's control of lucrative criminal…

ARGENTINA / 8 MAY 2015

Investigators in Argentina believe police officers and former members of Peru's Shining Path guerrillas are behind the recent kidnapping of…

COCA / 3 NOV 2017

Colombia and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) signed an agreement to cooperate on the Andean nation's…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…