WRITTEN BY PAMELA MORALES
TUESDAY, 17 NOVEMBER 2009
Psychologist Danae Sáenz Razis (37) and her therapist boyfriend, César Ahumada Lira (39), were charged with drug trafficking for distributing the illegal hallucinogenic ayahuasca in workshops designed to improve spiritual health.
According to police, the workshop attendees, mainly professionals from Santiago, paid the equivalent of US$80 to participate in the “ayahuasca rituals” held every other weekend on the couples’ land south of Santiago. Each participant received five millimeters of a liquid made from the plant.
An anonymous tip prompted a three-and-a-half month police investigation during which the couples´ trips and phone calls were monitored. The two were arrested after an undercover officer infiltrated the group posing as an attendee this past Saturday and identified Sáenz and Ahumada as the leaders.
Sáenz provided attendees a receipt for a psychotherapy session so that they could have the money they paid reimbursed by their medical insurer. This may prompt additional charges from the Public Health Ministry.
Police say Sáenz brought the ayahuasca into Chile from the Peruvian Amazon. More than 10 liters of the substance, worth USD$32,000, and 61 grams of marijuana were confiscated from the couples’ home.
Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic used by Amazonian shamans and whose main ingredient is dimethyltryptamine (DMT), is illegal in Chile. Though there are a number of studies into the drug’s effect on depression and drug addiction, the district attorney in the case, Jaime Retamal, said ayahuasca “has no known therapeutic or medical use . . . and clearly presents risks to those who use it.”
Sáenz and Ahumada were charged and released pending trial. Their attorney says they are cooperating with authorities. They could receive up to five years in prison if convicted.
SOURCES: LA TERCERA, EL MERCURIO, COOPERATIVA.CL
By Pamela Morales ( firstname.lastname@example.org )