Arizona woman escapes trumped-up drug charges in Mexico

  • by:
  • 08/21/2022

On May 22, the Mexican military arrested a 42-year old Mormon mother of seven from Arizona named Yanira Maldonado.  She was born in Mexico, and had returned there to attend the funeral of her aunt, having frequently traveled south of the border for vacation visits.  She and her husband Gary were taking a bus ride home from Mexico to Arizona when soldiers boarded the bus and announced they had discovered 12 pounds of marijuana under her seat.

Her husband was briefly detained and accused of being the smuggler, but then released.  In fact, Yanira only caught the Mexican soldiers’ eye after she insisted on accompanying Gary to serve as a translator.  They evidently decided she would make a better hostage, so they let her husband go.  Meanwhile, the passenger Gary thinks might have been the actual smuggler slipped away during the inspection.

Despite having no previous criminal record, Maldonado was unceremoniously tossed into jail, where she enjoyed the fabulous corruption of the Mexican justice system for over a week, even though it was patently obvious that she was innocent.  CNN quoted a state official from Sonora, speaking off the record, who was practically laughing at the absurdity of the charges: “Can you imagine?  A passenger by himself or herself would have been unable to carry almost six kilos of marijuana onto a bus without being noticed. She must’ve been framed.”

It was further noted that the marijuana was carefully secured under the seat in a manner that would have been impossible to arrange without the other passengers on the bus noticing.  Imagine yourself sitting on a bus, blissfully unaware that the couple across the aisle was taping twelve pounds of pot to the bottom of their seats.

Gary always assumed the point of the arrest was to squeeze bribes out of him.  According to CNN, the Maldonado family says Gary “was told by authorities that regardless of his wife’s guilt or innocence, he would have to pay $5,000 to secure her freedom.”

The same State Department that brought you the Benghazi outrage sprang into action:

“The U.S. Consulate in Nogales is monitoring the case closely,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “They are in regular contact with Ms. Maldonado and her family, and her legal counsel, and they’re working to schedule another visit with her. The last time we were able to visit with her was May 24.”

The State Department estimates that several thousand U.S. citizens are arrested in Mexico each year.

But it’s unclear exactly how many U.S. citizens have been detained in Mexico, the State Department said.

We don’t have the exact breakdown for Mexico, and the embassy would not have that information either,” said Elizabeth A. Finan, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affiairs. “However, I can say millions of U.S. citizens travel to Mexico each year, and most have uneventful trips. Arrests happen every day, as you might expect with such a high volume of visitors.”

Some arrests go unreported to U.S. officials, and sometimes arrested individuals do not request consular assistance, Finan wrote in an e-mail to CNN.

They don’t even know how many Americans are rotting in Mexican jails, but it’s cool, because most U.S. visitors have uneventful trips.

While the hapless State Department was “monitoring” this horror story, Maldonado was giving tearful interviews to American media and pleading for help.  She talked to ABC News yesterday:

From the accompanying text piece at ABC:

An Arizona mother of seven choked back tears while trying to make sense of how she went from sitting on a bus in Mexico to a jail cell, accused of smuggling drugs, and now at the mercy of the country’s justice system.

Yanira Maldonado said the events of the past week have been a “nightmare,” but is holding out hope that she will soon be released because she has “nothing to hide.”

[…] “It was horrible,” Maldonado told ABC News Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV Wednesday in a jail-house interview.

“I was in shock. I’m like this is not real. This is not happening. I don’t know. I thought maybe this was a set-up or a joke or something. I was just waiting for it to end but I realized that it’s real, that I’m being detained.”

[…] Maldonado said a Mexican official told her she had to plead guilty despite her insistence that she was innocent.

“She’s like, ‘I’m here to help. I’m here to put criminals behind bars,’ and I thought, “Thank God. I’m innocent.’ So, I thought that she was here to help me and she didn’t,” Maldonado, a devout Mormon, said.

Yanira was looking at 10 years in the fabled hell holes of Mexican prison.  (She passed the time at the Nogales holding facility by teaching illiterate fellow detainees how to read.)  Her court appearance played out like a satire of political corruption, as her lawyer noted the soldiers had varying stories about where they supposedly found the smuggled marijuana.  The soldiers in question didn’t even bother to show up in court.

Maldonado was finally released on Thursday evening, with all charges dropped… after court officials reviewed security camera footage that showed she and her husband boarded the bus with nothing but blankets, bottled water, and her purse.  Anyone still prepared to entertain the possibility this was a semi-legitimate arrest, rather than an official kidnapping and ransom demand, might ask why that wasn’t done immediately.  Are Mexican security cameras shooting Super 8 film that had to be mailed off to a photo lab for development?

But hey, all’s well that ends well, right?  The victim was upbeat and gracious after her escape from captivity:

Maldonado hugged her husband Gary and was greeted by well-wishers after she left the lockup and officials closed the jail doors behind her.

She spoke briefly, thanking U.S. state department officials, her husband, her lawyers and prison workers who made her stay comfortable.

“Many thanks to everyone, especially my God who let me go free, my family, my children, who with their help, I was able to survive this test,” she said.

Now, let’s take millions of un-assimilated illegal aliens who were raised under Mexican government, inject them into an American system already sick with corruption, and see what happens.


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