Authorities have fired a prison director for allowing an alleged female Mexican drug trafficker, known as ‘The Queen of the Pacific,’ to undergo plastic surgery while in jail. This is only the latest incident of Mexican capos receiving luxury benefits in prison.
The director of the Santa Martha Acatitla woman’s prison apparently allowed Avila Beltran, who was reportedly once a key link between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia’s Norte del Valle Cartel, to receive botox injections, reports Cronica. Initial media reports said Avila Beltran had also undergone liposuction and a nose job.
Avila Beltran was arrested in 2007, charged with trafficking drugs, laundering money and, unofficially, serving as the head of “public relations” for the Sinaloa Cartel. A Mexican federal court cleared her of drug trafficking charges in December but she is still facing an extradition order in the U.S. Since her arrest, she has frequently been singled out as a symbol of female prominence in a field dominated by men.
Much of Avila Beltran’s ascent was related to family ties and romantic connections. She is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, alias ‘The Godfather,’ one of the first Sinaloan traffickers to rise to fame. Both of her husbands were corrupt police commanders killed in drug-related hits. She has been romantically tied to Ismael Zambada García, alias ‘El Mayo,’ and Colombian trafficker Juan Diego Espinoza Ramirez, who also served as a pointman between the Colombian cartels and the Sinaloans.
Women do in fact make up an important part of the drug trafficking chain. According to the National Women’s Institute, known by its Spanish acronym Inmujeres, the number of females imprisoned for links to the drug trade rose 400 percent between 2007 and 2010. The Institute says that many of those working-class, single mothers worked as drug mules, often helping a man in their lives: a son, partner or husband.
Women play another important role in the drug trade, in that they are frequently targeted in revenge hits, including executions, rape, beheadings and hangings. The number of women killed in drug-related hits has also risen 600 percent, with over 650 executions registered last year, according to La Jornada, which cites statistics from the National Security Cabinet. This is still a small fraction of the 15,273 narco killings reported in 2010. But it is an indication that women across Mexico are increasingly transporting drugs, selling drugs and being killed for drugs, in low-profile ways that do not appear as “glamorous” as Beltran Avila’s lifestyle but is worth more attention and concern.
As the botox incident demonstrates, much of the attention fixated on Avila Beltran has to do with her “charm” and “beauty” and “spiked heels and skintight jeans.” By laundering millions of drug dollars in real estate and businesses and allegedly developing key political contacts in Mexico, she did in fact occupy a position of influence within the Sinaloa Cartel. In that sense, part of her mystique was her ability to raise questions about gender roles and female empowerment in the criminal world.
But while Avila Beltran appeared to occupy a position of agency in a business where women are dominated and victimized by men, she was also singled out by the Mexican and international media essentially because of her social class, her elite family history, and her lovers. Meanwhile, working-class women without Avila’s high-level connections remain a key part of the drug trade, performing (and subverting) traditional gender roles every day.
Other supposed “godmothers” in the history of drug trafficking have included Enedina Arellano Felix of the Tijuana Cartel and Colombian trafficker Griselda Blanco, who, as described by Ron Chepesiuk in “Drug Lords: the Rise and Fall of the Cali Cartel,” in the 1970’s “became one of the first Colombian gangsters to see the potential of the drug trade, and she began to build a cocaine pipeline between Colombia and the cities of Miami and New York.”