WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
1 Jan 2017 | Publication

Video Profiles: The Human Cost of the Drug War

These videos feature people who have spent years in prison enduring harsh sentences that are disproportionate to the crimes they committed. The videos are part of a TNI/WOLA study investigating the prison systems of eight countries in Latin America. The people in the videos are featured because they represent the rarely revealed human side of the war on drugs. These personal stories illustrate the unjust impact of current drug laws.


The small-time dealer: Analia Silva was imprisoned for dealing small quantities of drugs in Ecuador. A single mother and illiterate, she asserts that she could not find another way to support her children. Now she has a criminal record, which makes it difficult for her to find work.


Self-cultivation of marijuana: At 66 years old, Alicia Castilla was imprisoned for three months in Uruguay for cultivating marijuana for personal consumption.


The user: Marcus Vinicius identifies himself as a user. He was arrested with a larger quantity of drugs than permitted by Brazilian law for personal consumption. Vinicius was sentenced as a drug-trafficker in Brazil because he exceeded the legal limit.


The deceived: Rosa Julia Leyva explains how drugs were placed in her suitcase without her knowledge. She tells about her rape while in custody in Mexico before she was sentenced to many years in prison for a crime she did not commit.


The producer: Mario Vargas “stomped” coca in Bolivia – the first step in cocaine production. He was sentenced as if he were the owner of the drugs.


The mule: Marta Inez Miravete tells about how she was tricked by a man who invited her to go from Argentina to Brazil for a professional opportunity. She says that she had no knowledge of the drug that he put in her suitcase.


The Recidivist: In this video filmed in a prison in Bogotá, Colombia, Rocío Duque explains the reasons for which she returned to trafficking drugs: the lack of other opportunities.