Nat Geo TV: Locked Up Abroad (Nicaragua)

National Geographic's popular television program "Locked Up Abroad" just debuted an episode tied to Nicaragua ("I Am Not A Terrorist"- air date 07/09/2012 - the drug smuggling account of Duane Wollum). One will learn very little of Nicaragua by watching the episode, though how Wollum ended up released from prison is interesting, especially in that no outside assistance (outside the system) seems to have taken place - quite different from most other autobiographical accounts in the NatGeoTV Series. The episode' blog here ; &, the series episode index here

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Sounds like he was flat out guilty

Too bad he didn't do that in Thailand or Singapore where they would have just hanged him.

I rather love the Turks' response to "Midnight Express" -- "We reformed a drug dealer."

Rebecca Brown


Many episodes deal with drugs; most episodes deal with people who are guilty (desperate, naive, and not too bright, least not on that day), and no one disputes that and the show doesn't shy away from those realities. In fact, the drugs and guilt might actually fuel viewership. Anyway, in this same series there is an episode where a British woman is arrested for trying to smuggle heroin out of Bangkok Airport. She was in Klong Pem prison (a prison famous for drug abuse) for 3 years before she was even sentenced. You need to be caught with more than 90 grams of heroin to get the death sentence. She had 89. She was sentenced to life, but it was reduced to 25 years. After 4 years there in prison she filed for a in-country serve-out of sentence. She went from a large open air Thia prison to tiny maximum security hole in the U.K. (bad move, bad legal advice). Years later the King of Thailand granted her a royal pardon and she was released.

The guy sounded like he was rather perpetually dumb

Having been burglarized by a man here who was mostly a drunk with occasional flights of cocaine, I don't tend to be sympathetic. There was a made for TV series on an Australian who was hanged in Thailand or Singapore -- and his family had been making excuses for him for years.

Nicaragua seems to have been lenient enough with this guy. Wonder why Jason Puracal got hammered so hard -- one possibility is that he just looked wrong.

Rebecca Brown

Lenient enough?

He was sentenced to 99 years, as the Judge stated, 1 year for every percentage point of purity of the drug (claimed to have been tested at 98.9%). Problem is, this is not Nicaraguan law and there is no basis for that decision. He was informed of this by a military woman he happened to meet inside the prison, while she was visiting or working for someone else there. She later got his case before another judge as the original one had since retired (or died, I forget which). The new judge set him free, effective immediately. He had already been there for quite a few years by this time. If the story is accurate, there were no pay-offs, no embassy involvement, etc. He was caught in the airport with the drugs strapped to him. The evidence was obvious. Difference is, they still haven't found any evidence against Puracal. While possible, it is unlikely Puracal is in prison due to appearances; that theory doesn't seem to go very far in explaining why the alleged accomplices are in prison.

Didn't it say he served three?

Also, Nicaraguan maximum sentence for anything is 30 years. He's obviously lucky someone decided to take an interest in his case.

Rebecca Brown