For Colombian drug mules, trip to China can be lucrative but deadly

Chinese authorities last week executed retired Colombian journalist Ismael Arciniegas, seen pictured on the phone, for smuggling almost 4kg of cocaine in exchange for US$5,000. The phone is being held by his son, Juan Jose Herrera. Photo: AFP-year-old was put to death by lethal injection, becoming the first Colombian,convicted of smuggling almost 4kg of cocaine in exchange for US$5,000. Despite a last-ditch diplomatic effort by Colombia’s government to save Ismael Arciniegas, the 72-year-old was put to death by lethal injection, becoming the first Colombian,Juan Jose Herrera, 35, the son of Ismael \Arciniegas, who was arrested in China for drug trafficking, shows a photograph of his father in his mobile phone on February 28, 2017, in Cali, Valle del Cauca department, Colombia. Arciniegas was arrested in China in mid-2010 and sentenced to death after confessing that he had smuggled nearly four kilos of cocaine into the country. The Colombian government “deeply lamented” the sentence, wh

In a tiny brick apartment above a lottery shop, Martha Antivar waits for a sign of life from her husband, who is languishing in a Chinese prison an ocean away.

Five years ago, Oscar Hilarion, a 45-year-old taxi driver, told his wife and family in Colombia that he was going to China on a business venture with a friend. Weeks later, Antivar received a call from a Colombian official in China, informing her of a darker truth: Hilarion had been detained for trafficking drugs, a desperate act she believes he committed in order to stop the bank from seizing their home.

Drug trafficking can be punished with death in mainland China, and Hilarion’s family – along with those of an estimated 145 other Colombians – is left to wait in an almost total vacuum of information about whether their loved one will be spared. Colombian embassy officials who visit Hilarion every few months pass along sporadic updates. But few details about charges are shared, even once a sentence has been handed down.

Most of the relatives of accused Colombian drug mules in mainland China are too poor to make the 17,000km journey to see them or send money. Many have received…