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As told to Jacqui de Klerk 

With half of the product I had just bought in my pocket and the dealers trying to get me into a car to get the other half, I knew I was in serious trouble. Up ahead, I saw police approaching us S**t! How did I end up in this mess?

12 hours earlier 

After postponing this holiday three times, I’m finally going to try some of the highest quality cocaine in the world, I think to myself as the plane lands. And I’ve heard it’ll cost half of what I usually pay for second-rate stuff back home! 

I meet my friend at the airport. On our way to her flat, she tells me about a project she’s been working on for the government.

“I’m part of a team of writers trying to change the negative image that’s haunted this country since the early 90s,” she explains. “Back then, the drug cartel turned the entire country into a war zone. But we’re on a mission to show the world that things have changed here that this country is much safer and has beautiful cities and a fascinating history to discover.” 

“Nice,” I say nonchalantly. To be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to her story. I was too busy thinking about how I could get my hands on some grams tonight.

Later that evening, we’re at a bar. After two drinks, I decide it’s time to achieve the purpose of my visit. I walk out of the bar, and what a surprise! On the corner, a man selling gum and candies whispers the magic words: “coca?”

That was easy, I think, as the man became a dream candy shop in front of my eyes. We make a deal. After paying him, we walk two blocks, and a car stops beside us. The passenger door opens, and a girl hands me a baggie. 

“I paid for two of these,” I tell her.

“I know,” she smiles. “Jump in, and we can start the party here.” While she’s speaking, the candy man shoves me towards the car. Before they succeed in getting me into the car, two policemen on a motorbike come round the corner. The candy man jumps in the back in a flash, and the car zooms away.

Not wanting to be caught red-handed, I sneakily drop the bag and kick it away, hoping the policemen don’t see it. But the relief I feel quickly disappears when a deep voice speaks out from under the helmet…

“With the amount of cocaine you have, you can easily spend around three years in jail because that is more than the personal dose allowed in this country.” He pauses for a moment. “But you know, things could work out for you. The night is cold, and we’re feeling hungry.”

I am shaking petrified to the point I can’t utter a single word. My mind is racing… Is this a bribe? Can they really put me in jail for three years? Should I ask for help or just run away? Come on, don’t be stupid! You can’t run away from the policeS**t! What should I do? 

With sweat streaming down my face, I make a rash decision and pull out my money from my pocket to give them some. As I stretch my hand out, one of them barks, “what are you doing? Not like that!”

“Just walk away, and on your way, leave the whole wad of cash I saw on top of that rubbish bin,” he orders. “And stay away from this type of activity. The next time you won’t get off so easyrun along now, boy.” 

I drop the money and walk away without looking back. Trembling and pale as a ghost, I enter the bar.

“Where the heck have you been?” my friend demands. “I’ve been worried sick!” I sit down and recount the nightmare of my evening…

“Man, I am so disappointed in you,” she chides. “You could’ve ended up so much worse! You cannot imagine the level of danger you put yourself in tonight. You could’ve been beaten, drugged, kidnapped!

When you buy illegal drugs, besides endangering your life and getting involved in criminal acts, you are buying products that continue to have devastating effects on this country.

The reality of treating this country and every other country with drug problems like a safe drug playground is that you directly support and fund unimaginable acts of abuse, rape, and violence… 

Do you think it’s fair to be part of so much death, displacement, and destruction just because you’re on holiday?”

Eduardo Ríos Lasso

Eduardo Rios Lasso emerged as a writer alongside his doctor's development. Born and raised in Panama City, Panama, his journey has taken him around the globe to dozens of countries. Along the way, he found a passion for inquisitive travel writing – storytelling designed to explore and seek out positive life experiences while also sharing the common interests and challenges that bring different cultures together.

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