Cops nab drug dealing grannies

SANTIAGO: Elderly pensioners in Chile struggling to make ends meet are being lured by the narcotics trade, changing the profile of traditional drug dealers, police said.

The average age of drug dealers has soared in Chile, with police saying they had arrested this year some 16 people, mostly women, aged between 60 and 80 years. Among them were a pair of septuagenarians with a two-kg stash of cocaine.

"Those who fund the operations hire older adults because they don't fit the standard type of a drug offender and receive help from their neighbours," Claudio Salazar, head of the official anti-drug unit, told the El Mercurio newspaper. "Drug trafficking helps them escape poverty and earn an income for living. The neighbours do not complain because they know they would find themselves in a risky situation," Salazar added.

Among the arrests, counted since the beginning of the year, were two female friends aged 72 and 79 years old, dubbed by Chilean media as the "Grandmothers of Providencia," after the neighbourhood where they shared a house. They were caught with a cocaine stash worth $80,000. Most of the women apprehended since the beginning of the year have no prior criminal record and are targeted for work by traffickers because they live in poor areas of the capital, do not have livable pensions, and are too old to find a job.