The number of drug-trafficking “mules” arrested at the country’s airports has spiked in recent months.
Several of the mules – people who smuggle drugs on their person, often in their stomachs or rectums – have been foiled by their own bodies, rather than any action by the police.
Hamilton Keller, a 22-year-old U.S. citizen on his way to Miami, nearly died March 13 after 65 wrapped cocaine pellets exploded in his stomach, according to court and police officials.
He had to have them surgically removed from his stomach and throat after officers arrested him.
“It seems the young Hamilton was trying to travel to the United States, and minutes before leaving, he started to convulse inside the plane, at which time Drug Control Police agents stationed at the airport were informed,” a court press release states. “He was promptly transferred to a hospital.”
Keller joins at least four other mules – another American, an Italian, a Spaniard and a South African – whose plans fell apart at the Juan Santamaría International Airport, outside of San José, in the last few months. Police arrested:
_ A Spaniard named Chercocles, on March 19, who allegedly had 2.5 kilograms of cocaine hidden in tuna cans he was carrying.
_ Ferreira, a 28-year-old South African, on March 17, for allegedly carrying 1.2 kilograms of cocaine in her backpack.
_ Fiedrick, a 44-year-old U.S. citizen, on March 6, who allegedly had 111 cocaine pellets in his stomach. Fiedrick was hospitalized after convulsing and vomiting, police said.
_Madonía, an Italian woman, who vomited 77 cocaine pellets, on Feb. 19. They have all been ordered to three months of preventive prison and are facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Public Security Ministry spokesman Jesus Ureña said the tactic of wrapping drugs in cut-off fingers from latex gloves, swallowing them, and then defecating them later in the mule’s country of arrival is a relatively common practice.
“We’ve seen the trend for about 14 years,” he said. “Normally, they are trafficking networks. But these ones we’re seeing are poorly trained, so we suspect they’re doing it on their own behalf without a network behind them.”