NEW "HOT" DRUG "QUEEN" IN MEXICO !
An Accused Drug Queen Beguiles Mexico
October 11, 2007
MEXICO CITY: A woman who succeeds in a field dominated by men is always intriguing to the public, but when that field happens to be big-time cocaine trafficking, and the woman is graced with both charm and beauty, a criminal celebrity is born.
Ever since her arrest last month, Sandra Ávila Beltrán, better known as "the queen of the Pacific," has been getting the kind of press here that would have made Jesse James envious. Mexicans are closely following the case against her and the efforts to extradite her to the United States, where she is wanted in Florida.
Prosecutors here say Beltrán, a shapely, raven-haired, 46-year-old woman with a taste for high fashion, has played an important role in forging a federation of drug traffickers in the state of Sinaloa as well as creating an alliance between them and Colombian suppliers.
Along the way, she seduced many drug kingpins and upper-echelon police officers, becoming a powerful force in the cocaine world through a combination of ruthless business sense, a mobster's wiles and her sex appeal, prosecutors say.
It is a measure of her importance in the Mexican underworld that some Tijuana musicians have written a song in her honor, known as a "narcocorrido." The song extols her virtues as "a top lady who is a key part of the business." It has been played over and over on radio stations since her arrest.
Today in Americas
An accused drug queen beguiles MexicoGore supporters lead a movement with no candidateA primer on U.S. political primariesThe police say Ávila Beltrán was born into the trade. She is the niece of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, an important trafficker from Tijuana serving a long sentence for smuggling and the murder of an American drug-enforcement agent, Enrique Camarena. Another uncle is Juan José Quintero Payán, who was extradited to the United States recently on drug smuggling charges.
Her list of romantic conquests, the police say, include important members of the Sinaloa cartel like Ismael (El Mayo) Zambada and Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel, investigators say. Both remain powerful leaders in the Sinaloa organization.
Her lovers have fared better than her legal husbands. She was at one time married to the commander of the federal police in Sinaloa, José Luis Fuentes, who was murdered gangland style. Later she married Rodolfo López Amavizca, the commander of the now-defunct National Institute for the Combat against Drugs. He was also murdered in 2000 by a gunman in an Hermosillo hotel.
Of all her love affairs, however, it was her longtime union with a reputed Colombian trafficker, Juan Diego Espinosa, who calls himself "the Tiger," that cemented her position in the upper echelons of the Mexican underworld.
Together, the two of them forged deals between Mexican and Colombian traffickers in the late 1990s and 2000. She took control of shipping cocaine from the North Valley Cartel in Colombia to ports in Western Mexico, thus earning her the name queen of the Pacific.
At the same time, she established several legitimate businesses that investigators suspect were used to launder money - a string of tanning salons and a thriving real estate company with more than 200 properties in Sonora State.
But her luck began to run out in December 2001, when the authorities seized a tuna boat, the Macel, in the port of Manzanillo and found more than nine tons of cocaine aboard, worth $80 million.
Six months later, Ávila Beltrán's teenage son was kidnapped in Guadalajara and she made a slip. She contacted the authorities for help. She eventually asked the police to stay out of the way, handled the negotiations with the kidnappers herself and got her son back after 17 days.
But prosecutors say the $5 million ransom request raised their suspicions about her income. They started investigating her and by July 2002 had found evidence linking her to the Macel shipment. They also linked her to other members of Espinosa's family, among them a woman who was arrested at the Mexico City airport carrying about $1.5 million, prosecutors say.
Yet she eluded arrest and went underground. She lived quietly in Mexico City with Espinosa in a middle-class neighborhood and went by the name of Daniela García Chávez.
She did not drop her taste for luxury. She was fond of dining at Chez Wok, an expensive Thai restaurant in the ritzy Polanco neighborhood. She drove a flashy BMW car and frequented famous hair salons popular among television celebrities.
In March 2004, she was indicted on separate drug smuggling charges in Miami along with several members of the Espinosa family, according to court documents. But U.S. agents made no headway in gaining her arrest, even though she was living a high-profile lifestyle in Mexico City, court documents said.