This story of an American tourist who was detained after soldiers found drugs stashed under her bus seat was originally published in 2013, when the incident occurred. Fortunately it turned out well, but we are re-publishing details of the incident as a reminder that this type of thing can still happen in Mexico.

I need to say that I have traveled extensively around the state of Sonora and other parts of Mexico by commercial bus, and have never had an issue – it is a very comfortable way to travel with an opportunity to see Mexico through your window. Still, be alert when your bus is stopped for an inspection, and always comply with the requests of the inspecting officers.

Do you have an incident or experience to report? If so, please contact us.

Yanira Freed

Yanira Maldonado was freed from custody in Nogales, Mexico on May 30, 2013, the night before her scheduled court appearance.

American Arrested in Sonora on False Drug Charges

Traveling south of the border has always had its inherent risks. However, to a devoutly religious American mother of seven who has never had any trouble with the law, she should never have to worry about being incarcerated and accused of being a drug smuggler. But it happened. On May 22, 2013, a bus carrying Yanira and Gary Maldonado stopped at a military “reten” or inspection checkpoint, north of Hermosillo. The Maldonados had attended the funeral of a relative in Hermosillo and were returning to their home in Goodyear, Arizona. At the checkpoint, all passengers had to deboard, and soldiers found a 12-pound package of marijuana secured to the underside of Yanira’s bus seat.

The Maldonados were detained by the Mexican military – first Gary, and then Yanira, who was then arrested. Gary found an attorney to help free his wife from this obvious miscarriage of justice, and according to news reports the lawyer told him “You know how it works in Mexico, right?,” alluding to the fact that Mr. Maldonado would have to pay a bribe to free his wife.

The attorney then apparently negotiated with the military for a $5,000 price for the freedom of Yanira. Now, the fact that she was arrested for drug trafficking is outrageous, and the fact that the military officials and attorney apparently collaborated to extort money from the Maldonados is infuriating.

Additionally, the Maldonados were not able to wire the $5,000 USD in the time specified (before the case had to be handed from the military to the Mexican justice system) so by the time they had wired the money Mrs. Maldonado had been arrested and incarcerated. She was later moved from Hermosillo to a women’s correctional facility in Nogales, Sonora without notification to her family.

The Maldonados and their family and friends continue to plead for the release of Yanira, and have established a Facebook page – click here to access the page. We all need to demand her immediate release, as well as the identification and punishment of all parties involved in the corruption related to this event.

Update: 30 May 2013

The soldiers who arrested Maldonado failed to appear for a court hearing in Nogales yesterday (possibly because they did not want to answer questions about possible corruption), so the judge postponed the hearing until tomorrow (Friday).

Meanwhile, a review of the video at the Tufesa station shows Maldonado and her husband boarding with only a blanket and a small bag. Officials concede it would have been impossible for them to conceal the packages of marijuana, and very difficult for her to even carry that much weight. Also, the two were reportedly the last two passengers on the bus to board. Were the other passengers questioned during this incident? It appears not.

Maldonado’s NBC interview

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NBC News Story