Mexican beauty queen Maria Susana Flores

The death of Miss Sinaloa 2012 in a shootout between the Mexican military and suspects linked to the Sinaloa Cartel points to the links between organized crime and beauty queens in Latin America.

Twenty-year-old Maria Susana Flores Gamez died following a car chase sparked by a military raid on an alleged gang safe house in the town of Guamuchil, Sinaloa state.

Flores' body was found next to the armored vehicle she had been travelling in. At her side was an assault rifle, although it was not clear whether she had participated in the shootout, according to the local attorney general (see video, below).

Soldiers killed two of the gunmen who were with Flores and arrested four more, while one army sergeant was fatally wounded and a bystander was killed, according to reports.  

InSight Crime Analysis

It is thought that Flores was in a relationship with one of the men, though there have been conflicting reports as to his identity.

Flores would not be the first Latin American beauty queen to become embroiled in the world of organized crime. A number of Mexican, Colombian and Venezuelan queens have been linked to drug traffickers, most famously Emma Coronel, also from Sinaloa, who married Sinaloa Cartel boss drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in 2007.

Flores was also not the first to find herself in a confrontation with the authorities. In 2008, her Miss Sinaloa predecessor Laura Elena Zuñiga was arrested when travelling in a car with alleged drug traffickers, weapons, ammunition and thousands of dollars, although charges were later dropped for lack of evidence.

Earlier this month, Venezuelan authorities charged former "Miss Venezuela" contestant Gabriela Fernandez Ocando, who allegedly worked with now-captured Colombian kingpin Daniel "El Loco" Barrera. Last year, an Argentine court sentenced former Colombian beauty queen Angie Sanclemente to six years and eight months in prison for heading a cocaine trafficking network.

As InSight Crime has commented previously, the involvement of beauty queens in organized crime, whether as participants or hangers-on, can be seen as another manifestation of the "narco-culture" that can be observed in Mexico and other Latin American countries affected by drug trafficking and organized crime.