It's hard to understand what's going on in the Mexican cartel wars without paying strict attention to who's fighting who, or in this case, who's f%$#ing who. C'est la vie. Disturbingly, if unsurprisingly, the media and a large portion of the Mexican public appears to sympathize more with her, to judge from this AP article (Oct. 4), than those who seek to prosecute her:
the story of her arrest and possible extradition to the U.S. is being followed more closely than a telenovela.
Police say the raven-haired 46-year-old spent more than a decade working her way to the top echelons of Mexico's male-dominated drug trade, uniting Colombian and Mexican gangs, and seducing several notorious kingpins.
Dubbed the "Queen of the Pacific," she even has her own song — a "narcocorrido" folk ballad about drug traffickers by Los Tucanes de Tijuana that pays homage to her as "a top lady who is a key part of the business."
Since her arrest last week, the song has been playing often on Mexican radio, and television stations are repeatedly broadcasting a video showing her coyly telling police that she is just a housewife and businesswoman. The clip had been seen 40,000 times on YouTube as of Thursday.
Avila Beltran lived largely unnoticed in the northern cities of Guadalajara and Hermosillo until 2001. That's when police found more than nine tons of cocaine on a ship in the Pacific port of Manzanillo and tracked the shipment to her and her 39-year-old lover, Juan Diego Espinoza Ramirez — known as "the Tiger" and also wanted by U.S. authorities.
It was her romance with Espinoza Ramirez that brought together two powerful cocaine organizations, Mexico's Sinaloa gang and Colombia's Norte del Valle cartel, prosecutors say.
Officials say Avila Beltran was head of "public relations" for the Sinaloa cartel, an unprecedented role for a woman, and as such helped move cocaine from Colombia.
Her success was likely aided by an influential family. She is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, "the godfather" of Mexican drug smuggling, who is serving a 40-year sentence in Mexico for drug smuggling and the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in Mexico's western Jalisco state.
Another uncle, Juan Jose Quintero Payan, was extradited to the U.S. last January on drug-trafficking charges, Assistant Federal Public Safety Secretary Patricio Patino said.
The only other woman believed to be part of a cartel's leadership is Avila Beltran's distant relative Enedina Arellano Felix, who experts say took over the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix cartel after one of her brothers was killed in a police shootout and her other brother was arrested.
Mexican media have said Avila Beltran had love affairs with other drug lords, as well, which helped catapult her into the elite of drug trafficking. Among the purported lovers were Ismael Zambada, a leader of the Sinaloa cartel, and alleged methamphetamine kingpin Ignacio Coronel.
The arrest and possible extradition of the "Queen of the Pacific" marks one of the few high level arrests of Sinaloa cartel leaders. Most Mexican enforcement has focused on the Gulf Cartel, leading some of the President's critics to speculate Cardenas' strategy may be to take out the weaker gang and cut a deal with the remaining smugglers - mainly the Sinaloa group - in order to reduce nationwide violence. The Government denies this, naturally, which could partially explain why Avila Beltran's case has received so much publicity in Mexico.