Saturday 24 March 2018

'I make drug mules fall in love with me' - backpackers beware

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid
Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid

The hapless Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid appeared at the outset of Brits Behind Bars: Cocaine Smugglers (Channel 4) in that familiar footage of them standing forlornly at Lima airport while being quizzed by Peruvian customs officers.

But they were only two of many young dupes who've been incarcerated in Peruvian jails for consenting to being drug mules. In fact, the film told us that 700 Europeans, many of them Spanish or British, are currently in Peruvian prisons, Peru having now overtaken Colombia as the world's biggest cociaine producer.

In an absorbing film, we met El Negro, who operates as a groomer of mules by targeting backpackers who've run low on funds or have maxed out their credit cards.

"I look for partygoers", he said, "carefree, a bit of a rebel - they're the easiest to groom. I make girls fall in love with me". When a potential mule asks "Is it safe?" he reassures them: "Of course it is".

As for his own role: "We're like any other company, with a human resources department and an operational side".

Antonia was targeted in Madrid, arrested trying to leave Peru and now languishes in prison. Was her consent the worst decision of her life? "Si", she somewhat redundantly replied.

Elsewhere, BBC4 went nuclear with a series of programmes coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. However, I learned nothing from Mark Cousins's film, Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise, which was so intent on being artily poetic and impressionistically doomy that it neglected to tell me any facts, though at the very end I learned from a caption that 15,700 functioning nuclear warheads are still out there. I learned a bit more from Britain's Nuclear Secrets: Inside Sellafield, though presenter-professor Jim Al-Khalili was so intent on accentuating the positive that I could have been watching a promotional film.

Was that because "for the very first time" his film crew was granted "exclusive access"?

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