Notorious Mexican Drug Boss Wins Release From U.S. Prison

A best-selling book and a popular ballad have been written about Sandra Avila Beltran. The so-called Queen of the Pacific is Mexico's best-known female drug boss. She is notorious for her lavish lifestyle and love of cosmetic surgery. And soon she'll be heading home from a U.S. prison after winning her release in a plea deal.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

An infamous drug trafficker is being released from a U.S. prison and could be deported as early as today, though this cartel kingpin is a rare queenpin. Sandra Avila Beltran is known as the queen of the Pacific. NPR's Carrie Kahn has more.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: When Avila Beltran was surrounded by dozens of federal agents at a Mexico City diner in 2007, lore has it she calmly asked to have a few minutes in the powder room to touch up her make-up before her arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Spanish spoken)

SANDRA AVILA BELTRAN: Sandra Avila Beltran.

KAHN: Instead of the usual perp walks of gruff, handcuffed men hauled out in front of the media, the Mexican nightly news blasted this police interview, showing the perfectly coiffed brunette coolly answering questions, like what she did for a living.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Spanish spoken)

BELTRAN: (Spanish spoken)

KAHN: With a slight head tilt, Avila Beltran coyly replied she was a homemaker who sometimes sold clothes and rented houses. Prosecutors say she sold much more. She was a key link between Colombian cocaine suppliers and Mexican drug traffickers. She ultimately took control of major shipping routes from South America to western Mexico ports, earning her the title Queen of the Pacific. But it was her love of luxury clothes, cosmetic surgery and the seduction of dangerous traffickers that inspired books, TV shows and this famous narco-ballad by the Tucanes de Tijuana.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TUCANES DE TIJUANA: (Singing in Spanish)

ANGELA GARCIA: She was huge. She was larger than life.

KAHN: And she became mythical, says Angela Garcia, an anthropologist at Stanford University who studies drug addiction and trafficking in Mexico. And Garcia says Avila Beltran flaunted her sexuality to climb to the top of the male drug trade.

GARCIA: And was really explicit about asserting her femininity in the world that had been - that still is - decidedly masculine.

KAHN: Avila Beltran was born into the drug trade. Her parents and grandparents were big names in trafficking. She was married twice to corrupt police commanders - both were murdered. And her long-time lover, known as The Tiger, was a reputed Colombian crime boss. She came to authorities' attention after putting up a $5 million ransom for the return of her kidnapped teenage soon. Anderson Cooper, reporting for "60 Minutes," caught up with her in a Mexican prison where she was serving five years on money laundering and drug charges.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")

ANDERSON COOPER: She denies the charges, but certainly seems to know a lot about drug trafficking.

BELTRAN: (Through translator) There are more and more people involved in drug trafficking now than ever before.

KAHN: With her perfectly shaped thick, dark eyebrows and long, flowing hair, Avila Beltran adamantly maintained her innocence. Unfortunately, two prison officials were later found guilty of allowing a clinician into her cell to keep up her Botox regime. The drug charges against her were ultimately dropped in Mexico, and she was extradited to the U.S. She took a deal and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and served 11 months in prison, says her defense lawyer, Stephen Ralls.

STEPHEN RALLS: She may have known drug traffickers is a different story. But that she herself ever having been involved in drug trafficking, she says she never has.

KAHN: Rawls says Avila Beltran completed her sentence last Saturday, and is anxious to get back home to Mexico and be with her family. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.