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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
My story: The drug smuggler
Porota is a Colombian drug smuggler or 'mule'. She is serving the fifth year of an eight-year prison sentence in the UK. Her real name could not be published for fears for her safety.

View of Porota from the back
Porota thought she would not be caught
"I am very nervous at the moment because I have been granted parole later this month, and I don't want anything to go wrong. I need to get out of prison because I have three children: one aged 12, one aged 11 and one aged 10.

"They need me because they do not live with their father and I have to be mother and father for them.


They trained me by getting me to swallow things like grapes

"I carried drugs because I had no help supporting my children and things were very difficult for us. You will do whatever you have to do for your children. I wanted them to have a better life, without so much hardship.

"These people trained me and told me that I was very well prepared and would not get caught. So they convinced me that I would be safe.

"They trained me by getting me to swallow things like grapes. I had to swallow them without chewing. When the time came, I carried the drugs in my stomach.

'Bad dream'

"I got caught because I was travelling with a man who was caught lying. He had said he was a tourist and needed information about where to stay. He had filled out this form saying that he had never been to the UK before, that he didn't know anyone here.

"Then they found a UK address on him and knew he was lying. They took us away and searched us. I had swallowed drugs, but I also had some hidden in my vagina. It was these that they found when they searched me.

"I thought I would die for sure when I was found out. I did not understand a word of English. I thought I was going to be killed.

"When I arrived in prison I was in shock. I had never broken the law before. I tried to convince myself that it was a bad dream, that I would wake up with my children.

"But instead I would wake up every day and see these walls. I was in a terrible state, I just wanted to die. There was another Colombian in prison with me and she spoke to me and convinced me that time would pass.


If I could turn the clock back, I would not do it

"The most difficult thing is not being with my children. They never said to me: Mummy we want you to buy us a little house. It was what I wanted for them. That's why I did it. For a house. My mother had died and we were left with no house. I needed a home for my children.

"My children think that I'm working here in England. I have had very little communication with them. They live in the countryside, with an uncle of mine who is very strict. I have only been allowed to speak to them three times in these four years.

"What will I do when I cross those prison gates? I'll probably start running like crazy, shouting at the top of my voice.

"Would I ever carry drugs again? No, no, no. No. Never. If I could turn the clock back, I would not do it.

"I feel very guilty that my children are sad and maybe feel abandoned by their mother. When I return to Colombia I will tell them the truth."

Interview by BBC Mundo

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