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Mules: the weakest link in drug trafficking

Mules: the weakest link in drug trafficking

June 13, 2024

Known by the name of mules, they transport narcotics from one country to another with more and more ingenious and varied methods: in hidden compartments in suitcases, in footwear or clothing, and even within one's own body.

It's about people who they ingest capsules with drugs , usually cocaine or heroin, inside latex gloves, condoms, to prevent normal digestive processes from spoiling the merchandise. The mission consists in ingesting the capsules, transporting them from one country to another, expelling them, cleaning them up and handing them over to another member of the narco organization that is in charge of receiving them.

In this traffic mode we will stop at this article.


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Mules: who are the chosen ones?

Usually, when recruiting mules, from drug trafficking people with very low resources and poverty are sought , in situations of great vulnerability, marginality, desperation and lack of perception of opportunities to get ahead, among other factors.

By accepting to transport drugs they become criminals while they are victims of criminal organizations that the conditions in which people who access this type of activity are abused are being abused. They give them the assurance that it is not a dangerous activity and that everything is fixed. They cheat them and promise security conditions that are not fulfilled later.


And they do not always agree voluntarily. Many times they are deceived, extorted to make the task concrete, forcing them to take drugs by force and under threat to themselves or their family. In other cases, they are victims of trafficking networks.

A not minor fact is that airport security has a body scanner, which detects the capsules inside the body, which is why It is no accident that many of the mules are pregnant women , to those who can not subject them to X-rays, which is why it is more difficult for them to be stopped. They are like a perfect "container", although the weakest and physically involved.

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Lack of awareness of the risks

The decision to be a mule is usually made in the combination of a vulnerable situation of despair and despair and a false conception that this is an activity that will generate money easily. It is perceived as a possible opportunity and way of subsistence.


But this "work" really easy has nothing: implies first of all risks in the health of the person (intoxication, intestinal obstruction, peritonitis and if a capsule breaks, it is very likely that your transporter dies) and exposes you to commit a crime punishable by imprisonment for possession and trafficking of narcotics. This will depend on the country where the mules are discovered.

There are countries where the sentences reach up to 12 years in prison , according to quantities trafficked and whether or not there is collaboration in detention and in the subsequent investigation. In other countries, such as China and Indonesia, the penalties faced by drug trafficking mules can reach life imprisonment and even the death penalty.

In the case of Argentina, and according to the report "Imprisonment for crimes related to narcotics in Argentina," 7 out of 10 foreign women prisoners are detained after having acted as mules. The vast majority of women prisoners are mothers and have small children, in situations of vulnerability, helplessness and lack of both emotional and economic.

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Disposable containers

Two months ago, a 19-year-old girl was found dead in a downtown street in the city of Buenos Aires after two capsules of cocaine (out of a total of 80) exploded inside her stomach.

According to the witnesses of the case, the young woman was thrown from a vehicle, so it is believed that other people involved in that network, in front of his death, simply discarded it. A container that no longer serves must be thrown away. The mules stop being human beings for drug traffickers , they are a necessary object in the chain of operations but replaceable.

Many links in the drug chain

When this works and gets the drug to the desired point, thanks to a large network of accomplices, which goes from who gets and stores the product, who recruits, who transports, who delivers the substance, who facilitates the procedures for make the trip, who receives the merchandise, and some corrupt and necessary arrangement with airport or border security personnel.

Both mules and vendors commit crimes for which they are tried and imprisoned, however they are replaceable media by other pairs . For that reason, his detention barely touches the powerful drug traffickers who, free and preserved, will continue to negotiate with the health and lives of the people.

For the narco, each mule is an object that stores its valuable merchandise, its life does not matter, It is only relevant that the capsules reach their destination and without the least economic loss. It is a multi-million dollar business that plays with life and death.

Bibliographic references:

  • Corda, A. (2011). Imprisonment for narcotics-related offenses in Argentina.
  • The drug trade, the prisons and the "reforms in time": the phrases of the Minister of Justice, published on lanueva.com and consulted on 08/09/2017
  • The majority of foreign prisoners are "mules", available at //www.lavoz.com.ar/sucesos/las-mayorias-de-las-extranjeras-presas-son-mulas and consulted on 08/09/2017

Reporters: The Philippines’ ruthless war on drugs (June 2024).


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