Mexican drug cartel ‘queenpins’

Widows and daughters of men in the drug trade are shattering the glass ceiling with deadly resolve

Drug cartel ‘queenpins’

AFP/Getty Images

There was a time not long ago when Mexican police could parade accused drug cartel leaders and hit men before the press without having to wear ski masks to hide their own faces. Those earlier times couldn’t quite be described as halcyon, but much has worsened since outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderón launched his war on drugs nearly six years ago, a war that has left more than 50,000 dead in cartel-related slayings and triggered brutal infighting between the cartels. Ski masks are now de rigueur for police—they risk being slain if identified by the cartels. Something else has changed. A growing number of those being trotted out before the media are now women, with allegations against them just as gruesome as those against the men.

The accused “narcas” generally adopt the same hard look of disinterest their male counterparts assume. That was the expression on the face of María Guadalupe Jiménez López after her arrest in Monterrey in May. The 26-year-old known as “La Tosca,” the tough one, is accused of leading a group of killers responsible for a slew of grisly murders, including the killings of rivals and police officers. Among her alleged crimes are the torture and killing of two teen boys who ran afoul of her bosses in the feared Los Zetas cartel.

Since 2007, more than 10,000 women have been arrested for cartel-related offences ranging from drug trafficking and money laundering to murder. And nearly 50 of those arrested occupied key management roles in the country’s warring cartels, according to the federal attorney general’s office.

Last October, Mexican marines in Córdoba, in the eastern state of Veracruz, captured a woman alleged to be the financial head of Los Zetas for the whole of southern Mexico. The 29-year-old Carmen Saenz Consuelo Marquez, nicknamed “Claudia,” allegedly oversaw the collection, auditing and laundering of the cartel’s profits, the selling of counterfeit goods and gas siphoned from the pipelines of the state-owned oil company, Pemex, as well as extortion and kidnapping. Her region included the states of Hidalgo, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Tabasco and Quintana Roo. She was also in charge of the payroll of the Zetas in the region, from local bosses to assassins, dealers and distributors.

Before the drug war, it was rare for women to ascend to the top ranks of the drug underworld and become crime queenpins. The most prominent female boss is a woman the Mexican press anointed the “Queen of the Pacific,” Sandra Ávila Beltran, the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the undisputed godfather of Mexican drug smuggling in the 1970s and 1980s. It took the glamorous and ambitious Ávila more than a decade to reach the top ranks of the Sinaloa cartel, seducing several notorious kingpins and uniting Colombian and Mexican gangs along the way, according to court papers filed by Mexican prosecutors.

Since her 2007 arrest, though, more women have been populating cartel ranks at all levels, including being recruited and trained as assassins like La Tosca. And they are also moving up more quickly to take on leadership roles. A new book by Arturo Santamaría Gómez, Female Bosses of Narco-Traffic, details how “widows, daughters, lovers and girlfriends” of men in the Mexican drug trade have entered the business in increasingly powerful positions. It is arguably easier now for women to punch through the “glass ceiling” when it comes to the drug world than in legitimate business in Mexico.

The growing trend is partly a consequence of the increasing death toll. One narca told Gomez: “After they killed my father, my brother remained. But he was gunned down in the most recent shootout, and now I have taken the reins.” On top of the killings, cartel manpower has been drained by arrests. Mexico’s prison population has swollen dramatically, with 223,000 inmates now housed in federal and state facilities. Regular mass jailhouse breakouts engineered by the cartels can’t replenish the ranks quickly enough. As a result, the cartels have had to turn to womanpower to fill in labour shortages.

Initially, women were confined to work in the “softer areas” such as “narco-diplomacy,” negotiations with other cartels, and money laundering. But with manpower shortages pressing, women have moved up fast. Santamaría argues women resort to violence less often. But the rise of women in the drug underworld has actually coincided with ever more grisly slayings. Torture, decapitation and dismemberment of victims have become the depressing norm in recent years.

As the women get caught up in sweeps and arrests and are bumped off by rivals, the cartels have been recruiting women at younger ages. Los Zetas enlists women as hired killers more actively than other cartels and, unlike their competitors, who prefer to stick within connected families, the Zetas hire all over the country and from anyone who shows willingness. They are leading the way in recruiting younger women killers.

Last summer, police in the state of Jalisco presented three young women whom they said had been groomed by Los Zetas as assassins. They were arrested after a shootout with police. The youngest, Maria Celeste, a 16-year-old from Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, told reporters she had received two months of training from former soldiers and had been taught how to handle AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles. Her arrest had prevented her further education: she hadn’t yet been schooled in the use of grenades.


Mexican drug cartel ‘queenpins’

  1. Is this an intended consequence of the drug war, or an unintended consequence? And when’s it supposed to stop people using marijuana? It appears that it’s creating a whole lot of harm without benefiting us one bit! Maybe we should just legalize marijuana like wine and bankrupt these people?

    • Its more about cocaine than weed.

      Countries like Mexico wanted to start discussions on legalizing drugs or decriminalizing, something, anything to reduce the amount of violence and murder going in the country but USA will have none of it…and guess who buys the most cocaine per year in the world but US citizens…

      • Argentina has actually surpassed the usa now in cocaine consumption.

    • Yeah and maybe that will help the people who’s family members were savagely murdered by people looking for nothing but money.

      Americans could produce their own narcotics and people like the Zetas would commit that same savagery to get the same kind of money from some other industry.
      A savage is a savage is savage.

  2. Oliver Stone casting Selma Hayek as the cartel queen in his current movie “Savages” is not so far fetched after all.

  3. This “industry” serving the US drug habit is operated with greater dedication and resolve than any other I can think of. How can even the most ideologically blinded ever think that the war on drugs is winnable? The Mexican police and army are underfunded compared to the cartels, the billions poured into securing the border by the Americans is basically a waste and drugs of every description are apparently available in quantity wherever there’s a market.

    • Why don’t you go over there and do something about it logicfan1 instead of taunting people?

  4. as stated before , they are still walking free .. What justice has been served?
    Professionals with careers are also criminals.. The queenpin could be your local DOCTOR, OR SCHOOL OFFICIAL. .. The battle of the “queen of the south ” rights continues. COLOMBIAN “QUEENPINS” ,FOREIGNERS , SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO THROW CITIZENS OUT OF THEIR HOMES… OR THE U.S…. WHO MADE THEM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES?

  5. hairy pits sucks !!

  6. the one who buys is be the biggest addict. The one producing would be the queenpin.As for ARGENTINA, I agree about the consumption. ..Who let them out of LA ABOGADA? Weren’t they escapees?

    Nothing will change my mind about hairy pits…She sucks at being FBI…Can you believe they have allowed crooks like the terrorist to work a federal job?

  7. real graphic videos have posted on THE JUGALONATION.COM( woman caught cheating) AND BORDERLANDBEAT( ponchi’s 2 victims).. The cartels are trying to make their point by using violence as a way to get recognition.. They are very real and pose a threat to national security .. THE TENSION IS FELT IS SOUTH TEXAS… Since August , Virginia has sent THE NATIONAL GUARD and helicopters to patrol the RIO GRANDE VALLEY , due to cartels, & immigration issues. I RECOMMEND WATCHING THE VIDEOS. A HARSH REALITY…When will this all stop?

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