The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ecuador says to pardon small-time drug smugglers

QUITO, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Saturday said he will ask for the pardon of small-time drug smugglers, or mules, who have spent years in prison for trying to traffic a few grams of cocaine to the United States.

"Its unthinkable that an unemployed person who is not a criminal and is desperate to feed its children spends 12 or 16 years in jail for trying to travel to the United States with 300 grams (10.6 ounces) of drugs," Correa said during his weekly radio address. "We are not going to allow this injustice."

The 44-year-old U.S.-trained economist has admitted that his own father was arrested for smuggling drugs to the United States nearly 40 years ago.

Correa, who is widely popular among the poor for his pledges to battle elites, said the United States pressured Latin American governments to slap tougher penalties on drug smugglers in the 1990s.

"I assure you that if these were American mules, the law would have been revised a long time ago, but because they are Latin Americans they go to jail for 16 years," Correa said.

He also said the government will review the current anti-drug law that is too harsh on the poor who are easily abused and mislead by crime lords to smuggle drugs.

Powerful cocaine cartels in Colombia and Peru often use neighboring Ecuador as a main thoroughfare for smuggling the white powder drug to the United States.

Smugglers are paid to carry drugs in their luggage, tapped around their bodies or sometimes inside their stomachs after swallowing condoms stuffed with cocaine or heroine.

Hundreds of small-time drug smugglers, including some foreigners but most of them Latin Americans, often spend years in Ecuadorean jails without a sentence.

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