Argentina has released and deported a model from Colombia convicted of drug trafficking in 2011, in a case highlighting the controversial Argentine practice of ejecting foreign prisoners after serving half their jail term.
Angie Sanclemente Valencia was originally imprisoned in 2010 along with four others, following the December 2009 discovery of 55 kilos of cocaine in Ezeiza International Airport, near Buenos Aires. The drugs were intended to be taken to Spain, via Mexico. Sanclemente remained in hiding for five months (actively engaging with journalists on her Facebook account) and changed her appearance.
However, Argentine authorities found her in a Buenos Aires hostel in May 2010, reported Semana, and sentenced her to six years and eight months in prison. According to La Nacion, she was flown back to Colombia on September 27, and is free but barred from reentering Argentina.
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The release of Sanclemente brings to a close a high-profile case that highlighted the methods employed by drug trafficking gangs. The model and her accomplices were pursued by Argentine authorities after the original airport haul led to the capture of a young woman, Maria Noel Lopez Iglesias, pressed into transporting the drugs by the group, which included Sanclemente and her boyfriend. Lopez received a suspended three-year sentence and served no jail time following the trial.
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The release has also brought attention once more to the Argentine policy of releasing and deporting foreign prisoners early, just weeks after jewel thief and bank robber Luis Mario Vitette was sent back to Uruguay having served less than eight years of a 21-year sentence. That event caused controversy in Uruguay and led officials in the country to publicly contemplate mimicking the measure.
While the early release and deportation of prisoners may serve as a useful tool for Argentina to unclog the prison system, it could cause havoc if other countries decide to follow suit; the case of Vitette shows the diplomatic and security squabbles that may ensue.