Alot of travel writers don’t include the stories that would contain the words ‘drugs in Mexico’, its these stories that may give the perception travelling is scary due to the cultural differences, political differences or corruption. I loved Mexico, it was one of my favourite countries I’ve visited to date, the food, the ease of travelling the country, the people and activities makes it an ultimate go to. But while I was there I heard variations of this story from other travellers in every city or town about drugs in Mexico. This is the kind of travelling story people actually want to know about and not the ‘Top ten churches to visit’.
Drugs in Mexico: A story
Four men*, Andy, who’s American and Alex, Joe and Mikey are all from England. It was a Saturday evening, the plan was a night out, first drinking in the hostel before heading of into town to the intended various bars and clubs. They drink way more and for way longer than they intended to at the hostel, there was a good group by the time they made there way out at around midnight.
As the group of twenty or so in the hostel go to leave, Andy realises he’s not got his wallet and being now on his way to drunk it takes him five, ten minutes to find it, while Alex, Joe and Mikey wait for him. Now straggling behind they’re finishing their beers in the finally cooler Mexican air on the walk into town. As they walk into town a local man, middle aged, slightly overweight with thinning hair wearing a mucky white linen shirt comes up to them and starts speaking in Spanish. Joe, being the most drunk but also being between conversational and fluent understands that this man is offering cocaine. If you don’t know by now people take drugs, in every country in the world and drugs in Mexico are no exception. The community of travellers are included in those people- Alex, Andy, Joe and Mike infrequently dabble in substances. While Joe is conversing in Spanish Alex, Andy and Mikey are picking up pieces but aren’t too fussed, if cocaine was offered, they’ll have it but tonight is a take it or leave is affair. Joe wants it, so heads to an ATM before walking with the man down a street to go and collect said drugs. In Mexico the amount he was collecting was worth £74($XX). This is a lot of money in Mexico, five minutes pass; Andy, Mikey and Alex are waiting on the high street, but being drunk don’t really notice the time go by.
Mikey being the most sober at around three beers in, starts now questioning it all, its been ten minutes, but if they go down the street they too are caught up in a mess Joe is potentially in. They had a rule a while back, if there seems to be a problem with anything, do not follow. The others will help out on the other end if it turns out the problem is a bad one. Four police trucks go by with police clad in bullets and holding rifles, similarly to what you would expect in the UK if say a bomb had gone off. The police stop and ask if they have a friend called Joe. By now they know this is a mess. But how had this all happened? How and where have this amount of police, in this short time frame, got to the place Joe was making the exchange.
Joe getting into the police van with eight police men, all again in bullet proof vests draped in bullets and holding machine guns start asking him questions, where is he staying, wanting his ID, wanting his friends names. He can understand them near enough perfectly, they are saying he had over seven grams of cocaine of him, which he did not. But this amount he supposedly was caught with worried him, it will now go from ‘personal possession’ to ‘intent to supply’. It was a set up now, he new that. His decided his best bet was to pretend he knew very little Spanish, but being drunk he replied to certain more complicated Spanish words and pretended to misunderstand the basics. While on the journey to the police station he was beaten, for not ‘confessing’ to having seven grams of cocaine on him for not saying his friends names and for saying he didn’t understand Spanish. They arrived at the police station and everything was taken from him. His wallet contained the cocaine he had just paid £74/$97 for and around 2100 pesos, which works out at around £90/$117. They also took his phone and other menial things in his pockets.
A walk to the police station
All the while Mikey, Andy and Alex are ignorant to what is happening in the back of the van, they have been told by the police Joe is in a cell and he needs collecting. At this point it is around 1am and the taxis won’t give lifts to the police station-the local taxi drivers are evidently more than aware of the corruption between the police force and tourists. So they begin on the forty-five minute walk to the station. Between the three of them they can at most speak very basic conversational Spanish. They arrive at the police station and begin attempting to explain, the officer immediately knows exactly what they’re here for and bring the three men into a separate room. The statements coming from the police officers mouth were frank, in order to not file a report for the ‘amount’ of cocaine found on Joe is 5000 pesos, that works out at around £217 or $282. To anyone in a normal job this amount is a lot, but these are the definition of budget travellers being hitch hikers and frequent couch surfers (budget travel but can afford cocaine, I know, a question I also thought as I was being told the tale.)But because of this, to them this amount is unfathomably high. At this point what would you do?
Trump saves the day
They begin to try and negotiate. While they know they hold very little power sitting in a room with police officers in a Mexican police office, they are also aware that what the police are doing is illegal- lying about both the quantity of cocaine Joe had on him and the ability to not file offences for money. Both sides are in the wrong. Ninety minutes later and they are still talking in broken Spanish over the amount. Andy, the American mentions Trump and at that the Mexican police officers ears prick up. They then spend the next twenty minutes discussing all the faults of Trump, which all travellers in the room agree upon, but right now, the Mexican police force are living up to stereotype Trump regularly mentions. The conversation of Trump gets the bribery amount down to 2000 pesos (£86/$112) for not filing an offence. By this time it’s around 4am, they pay for their friend and wait for Joe to be let out.
The cost of being beaten
Joe looks both mentally and physically battered, but more than anything frustrated at himself. While grateful to be out the cell after four hours, he explains his story along with the fact the police took both the cocaine and the remaining 2100 pesos from his wallet. The police had made £250/$325 from them. The night was coming to an end and they all wanted out- getting back to the hostel they had had a big night. Joe was done with the area and was gone before I woke up the following morning, but the other three were there, re-telling the story to the others who had had a far more normal Saturday night. This is not uncommon, while in Mexico I heard variations of the same story. A man waits on the street working with the police offering drugs to tourists while the police wait, when a tourist takes the bait the police are ready. It means the police and the man ‘selling’ drugs on the street each get a cut of the bribe, the content of the wallet and the money paid initially for the drugs. The drugs the police take off the tourist go back in the hands of the man on the street and the process begins all over again. A simple money making process.
The Mexican police force and tolerance to drugs in Mexico.
If you don’t want this problem it seems the answer is to simply not buy drugs in Mexico. The one time I came into contact with the police, at a market in Mexico City, they were friendly enough. Over tacos I spent time discussing the politics of Mexico and the misunderstanding of the Mexican police force with an armed police man and his silent colleague. That said he was again dressed up in bullets and a vest. It seems in Mexico the police are prepared this way at all times, whether it be for a terrorist attack or a kid stealing sweets from a shop. Not all are corrupt, this is just one example, but this story just highlights the reality of the public infrastructure and a few individuals within it seeing ‘gringos’ visiting Mexico as money making opportunities.
If you would like to know more on the law on drugs in Mexico please see here.
Want to know how to have the best time travelling in Mexico (and avoid this mess)?
Check out my ‘Guide to travelling Mexico‘ to plan your trip today!
*names and nationalities are changed for privacy