A drug mule imprisoned in Venezuela at the age of 19 recently returned to his home in Estonia, saying that the experience and the risk of getting caught is not worth any amount of money.
Speaking on the ETV program “Ringvaade” two days after two young Estonian women were detained in Peru for smuggling in an unrelated case, Jaanus Iljašenko said that he was offered a lucrative deal to transport cocaine from South America by acquaintances, adding that in such cases, it is "always friends or acquaintances" who make the offer.
He said he was paid 4,000 euros per kilogram, and was told that everything has been paid for and there was no risk. A few successful runs carrying drugs in his baggage or in his stomach and the vast amount of cash gave him a feeling of invincibility.
Police in Venezuela arrested him three years ago in an international airport, on his way to Spain, and according to him, there was no investigation, just a guilty verdict followed by a sentence of two years and eight months.
Prison like a Independent City
Iljašenko said that most people who are imprisoned in Venezuela do not come out alive, adding that he witnessed over 300 murders in the prison.
“People live like animals, they are killed every day, people take and do what they want. It is not like a prison, but a city, with its own rules. Inmates have weapons and hand grenades. Every other person has a knife or a weapon in his hand, and it is hard to tell the difference between prisoners and guards,” he said.
Iljašenko said that the golden rule is 'to kill or be killed,' and that he did all he could to survive.
He was released five months early for learning Spanish and teaching English to other inmates, but added that he has bullet wounds and other scars to show for his experience.
There are currently around 30 Estonians serving time in South American prisons.