Peru holds some of Earth’s most cherished landmarks and ancient mysteries: the Amazon, Andes Mountains, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu and the Nazca lines to name a few. The ancient Inca centered their empire in Peru, and their presence is still felt in modern times. One of the Inca traditions that has not only survived but thrived is the growing and use of coca plants.
In case you’re misinformed, the coca plant does not equal cocaine. Cocaine is the final product of a complex chemical process that extracts a concentrated amount of alkaloids, which stimulates the central nervous system. But the coca leaves taken in their natural form – either by chewing the leaves or by brewing a tea – contain essential nutritional properties, which have been used as medicine in Andean societies for thousands of years.
According to the 2011 World Drug Report, Peru is the largest producer of coca in the world. Unfortunately most of the crop isn’t used for medicine or nutrition (interestingly Coca Cola still imports coca leaves for their products). Instead, it’s processed into cocaine and trafficked out of the country. The Peruvian government admits drug trafficking accounts for 17% of the country’s GDP, which was nearly $26.7 billion dollars in 2010.
The cocaine industry is massive, and it entraps many captivated by the illusion of easy money. Ruthie Lampbert was one such person. When her husband left her after she lost her job, she faced a $3,000 per month mortgage with children to support, as well. In order to preserve her home and lifestyle, she agreed to smuggle Peruvian cocaine for some friends who lived Austria.
Ruthie went on three trips to Lima in less than four months (each trip earning her $10,000). The frequency of her travels set off red flags, and the DEA and Peruvian authorities began to take notice. “I realized that if the American police are onto me, obviously I’m becoming hot,” Ruthie recalled. “It was really time to get out.” Unfortunately, she did not get out in time.
Desperation forced Ruthie to take unnecessary risks in hopes of reversing her misfortunes, and her drug dealing friends were more than willing to exploit her situation. If you ever fall on hard times, you, too, may be searching for a quick fix to dig yourself out of your hole, but please consider Ruthie’s experience before grabbing a shovel.
- Making repeated short trips to destinations known for heavy drug trafficking will set off the alarms for drug enforcement agencies.
- Being questioned by the authorities should be the number one reason to get out of the drug smuggling business immediately.
- Never deal with a crooked cop.
- Americans and Europeans are often recruited to smuggle drugs only to be set up by their suppliers as a way to distract the police. For every person like Ruthie who is caught with a few kilos, another person slips through with hundreds of pounds.
- Ruthie was eventually able to bribe her way to freedom by finding a corrupt official. With over 36% of Peru’s population lives in poverty, a little cash incentive helped Ruthie out of a jam.
Don’t miss Locked Up Abroad: Cocaine Mule Mom tonight at 10P et/pt