Police in the northern city of Monterrey have arrested a woman who allegedly worked as an assassin for a local Zetas outfit, and is suspected of killing at least 20 people for the criminal organization.

On May 7, state police officials in Nuevo Leon announced that they had broken up a cell of the Zetas drug cartel.  At its head was Maria Jimenez, “alias La Tosca,” a 26 year-old woman who reportedly confessed to the murder of 20 individuals, including that of a local police detective.

La Cronica de Hoy reports that authorities arrested three men who allegedly formed part of Jimenez’s hit squad, as well as three women accused of selling drugs for the gang. According to Milenio, all seven individuals were arrested on May 1, after police noticed a grey van without license plates matching the description of a stolen vehicle.

InSight Crime Analysis

Much of the English-language press about the arrest has focused on Maria Jimenez’s gender and the fact that few other female cartel operatives have been suspected of so many murders. However, this may be a reflection of the media’s tendency to overlook the complex roles that women play as participants in Mexico’s “drug war.” A number of female assassins have been apprehended in Mexico in recent years, and a female plaza chief for the Zetas was arrested outside Monterrey in August.

Indeed, when officials broke up a Zetas training camp last June, they were surprised to find that half of the trainees were females. Even if female assassins are not common, these incidents at the very least suggest that gender roles are shifting as the drug conflict heats up.

Investigations

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