MEXICO CITY – Mexico's highest-profile female suspected drug trafficker and her Colombian drug boss lover were arrested Friday by federal agents in Mexico City, the government said.
Sandra Avila Beltran, dubbed the Queen of the Pacific and reputed to play a key role in shipping cocaine from Colombia to Mexico for the Sinaloa cartel, was arrested outside a restaurant in the capital's south, Assistant Public Safety Secretary Patricio Patino said.
Avila Beltran, 45, was in charge of the cartel's "public relations" and facilitated the movement of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, including nine tons confiscated from a ship in Manzanillo in 2002, Patino told a news conference. He said there is a U.S. order for her extradition.
Hours after Avila Beltran's arrest, police detained her lover, Juan Diego Espinoza Ramirez, an alleged top Colombian drug trafficker also wanted by U.S. authorities.
Patino said Espinoza Ramirez, 39, was the second in command in the Colombian Norte del Valle cartel, whose leader Diego Montoya was arrested in Colombia earlier this month.
"He is one of the most-wanted drug traffickers in Colombia and in Mexico," Patino said.
Espinoza Ramirez is listed as a fugitive by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Miami.
Avila Beltran and Espinoza Ramirez worked for Ismael Zambada Garcia, a close associate of alleged Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Patino said.
In a video interview distributed by police, Avila Beltran says she is a housewife who also makes money selling clothes and renting houses.
When the interviewer asks why she is being held, she replies with a smile, "because there is an arrest warrant asking for my extradition."
Police were able to locate Avila Beltran thanks to numerous visits she made to a Thai restaurant and two beauty shops in Mexico City's ritzy Polanco neighborhood, Patino said.
Avila Beltran is the only woman among dozens of men suspected of drug trafficking in Mexico and is included on the nation's list of most-wanted fugitives.
She is accused of forming part of the third-generation of drug traffickers from the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, where most major Mexican drug kingpins come from.
She is also a niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the so-called godfather of Mexican drug smuggling.