Teacher's WYD pilgrimage detoured by brush with illicit drug trade

By  David Agren, Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY - A pilgrimage to World Youth Day took a detour through prison for a Mexican preschool teacher after an inadvertent brush with the illegal drug trade.

The ordeal, which made national headlines and prompted intervention from Mexico's attorney general, ended well for Angel de Maria Soto Zarate, who was exonerated July 17.

It was uncertain if she would make it to Rio de Janeiro in time for the opening of World Youth Day July 23.

Soto, 23, departed her hometown of Xalapa in Veracruz state for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro July 11, but her passport went missing while changing planes in Lima, Peru, and she was sent back to Mexico.

The teacher was arrested upon arrival in Mexico City for supposedly carrying 10 kilos of cocaine in her suitcase. She was sent to a prison in Nayarit state, where she was held incommunicado for 48 hours.

Young Mexicans began protesting for her release with social media campaigns with the hashtag #liberADMe, while the archdiocese of Xalapa pressured public officials.

"The attorney general just admitted the innocence of Angel de Maria. She will be freed. Continue offering prayers," Fr. Jose Juan Sanchez Jacome, archdiocesan spokesman, tweeted on his account July 17, when the release was announced.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam acknowledged the same day in an interview with Radio Formula, "She went through various unfortunate situations."
Murillo said the suitcase checked by Soto contained the cocaine, but that videos of her packing the bag did not show drugs.

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