San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Drug Smugglers’ Use of ‘Mules’ Is Climbing

The number of drug-trafficking “mules” arrested in Costa Rican airports and on the border appears to have spiked again.

Since The Tico Times last wrote about the trend on March 28, the Public Security Ministry and Prosecutor’s Office have sent out at least 21 press releases detailing people who have smuggled drugs in their stomachs and other bodily chambers, secret compartments in luggage and other places.

So far this year, 26 mules have been arrested in the JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport alone.

Drug Control Police Chief Allan Solano said the trend is nothing new and that the “intra-corporal” smuggling in stomachs and rectums is an evolution toward more effective, but also more dangerous, tactics in trafficking.

The following is a list of the recent detainees, all of whom have been ordered to serve at least three months in preventive prison while their cases are investigated by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) and prosecutors. Only their last names are given: Wielzen, 47, the first Dutch citizen arrested so far this year in the JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport, was detained on Sept. 12 on his way to Amsterdam with almost a kilogram of cocaine. Authorities said they had X-rays taken of the suspect after he “showed suspicious behavior.” The results showed he had some irregularities in his stomach, and induced defecation yielded 68 wrapped cocaine pellets, totaling 745 grams.

Higareda, 26, a Mexican on his way to Mexico City, was arrested with 1.4 kilos of cocaine in 95 pellets in his stomach on Sept. 5. Authorities said it was the second largest intra-corporal trafficking attempt this year.

Bensimor, 31, a French citizen on his way to Madrid, was busted with 1.2 kilos of cocaine in his luggage.

Krasinir, 22, the first Bulgarian citizen arrested this year on his way to Madrid and Amsterdam, was taken into custody Sept. 3, his belongings were searched, and authorities found 3.3 kilos of cocaine hidden in printer cartridges.

Ruíz, 31, became the first Panamanian arrested in Juan Santamaría this year as she tried to go to Paris via Mexico City. She was busted Aug. 17 with 5.7 kilos of cocaine in secret luggage compartments and has been ordered to six months of preventive prison.

Yanicelly, 40, and Cerdas, 45, two Ticas headed for Madrid, were busted on Aug. 2 with 6.4 kilos of cocaine hidden in coffee bags and gift-wrapping paper. Authorities also confiscated 4,450 euros and $100.

Méndez, 24, and Mejía, 35, Mexicans with 39 kilos of cocaine, were arrested in Peñas Blancas on the border with Nicaragua on July 29. Police also confiscated a firearm and $5,600 in cash.

Pacheco, 39, a Tico, was arrested on July 12 with six kilos of cocaine hidden in ground coffee containers.

Chaves, 27, a Tico truck driver, was arrested on June 26 with a shipment of cocaine mixed with glass and soap, on the border with Nicaragua. He was allegedly on his way to El Salvador.

Belcher, 35, a Honduran citizen, was arrested on his way to Panama City and Amsterdam on June 26 with 3.6 kilos of cocaine in a hidden luggage compartment.

Quesada, 38, and Kelly, 35, Ticos, were busted within 24 hours of each other at Juan Santamaría on June 10-11, with 729 grams and 2 kilos of cocaine, respectively. Quesada had 729 grams of cocaine wrapped in latex in her stomach and Kelly had the drugs hidden in her luggage. They were headed to Madrid and Amsterdam, respectively.

Rodríguez, 45, a Nicaraguan, was arrested with 52 kilos of cocaine hidden in coffee leaves in a refrigerated truck with Guatemalan license plates in Peñas Blancas on the border with Nicaragua on July 6.

Rodríguez, 25, a Tico, was apprehended at Juan Santamaría on his way to Havana, Paris and Barcelona after he vomited and defecated almost a kilo of liquid cocaine capsules on June 13. The subject nearly died, had to have surgery to remove the remaining cocaine and remained in intensive care for weeks. Authorities said it was the first case they’ve seen liquid cocaine and suspected it was an experiment by traffickers to find better smuggling methods.


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