In his weekly radio address last Saturday, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa proposed pardoning low-level drug couriers, commonly known as "mules." Correa also called for drafting new drug laws that more accurately reflect the severity of various drug crimes.
Under current Ecuadorian drug laws, which Correa complained were drafted under pressure from Washington, people caught with as little as 3 1/2 ounces of cocaine can be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, a situation Correa called "absurd." The current law "treats as the same the boss of the Cali cartel and a poor unemployed single mother who dared to carry 300 grams of drugs," Correa said. "It's a barbarity."
While Ecuador produces almost no coca, the key ingredient in cocaine, it is frequently used as a transit country for drugs coming from neighboring Colombia and Peru, the world's top two coca producers, to the United States.
Since his election earlier this year, Correa has been a critic of the US drug war in Latin America. He has refused to extend the lease on the US airbase at Manta, and has buddied up with Washington's bÃªte noire, Venezuelan leader Hugo ChÃ¡vez. When it comes to the drug war, Correa also has some personal experience. Earlier this year, he acknowledged that his father, who died when he was nine, served three years in prison in the US for carrying drugs.