Kilos and Killer Heels: These are the Female Bosses Running Mexico's Brutal Cartels
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Kilos and killer heels. That's the new style of one very established group: the Mexican cartels.
Think of it as a step toward job equality. As more and more of the Mexican cartel bosses fall from the top ranks, a new kind of narco-trafficker is stepping in. They're just as brutal, just as effective, and the only difference? They're women.
These are the women running the narco world. And you can guarantee in their line of work, there's no such thing as a glass ceiling.
Enedina Arellano Felix, or "La Jefa"
Also known as "La Narcomami," Arellano Felix is the last-standing leader of the Tijuana Cartel. She was born into the Arellano Felix Organization, or more accurately, the Tijuana Cartel, as the sister of the men who started the cartel.
The Tijuana cartel was once one of the most powerful cartels in the world, responsible for the majority of the narcotics coming through the Tijuana corridor into the United States during the 1990's. But the organization weakened with the loss of their leaders, one by one, as they fell from power.
First, La Jefa's brother Ramon, and then Benjamin. As each of the men was removed from power, either by arrest or by assassination, it became more and more likely that La Narcomami would need to step in. After all, she'd already started running the majority of the Arellano Felix money laundering, a job that came naturally after earning a degree in accounting from a private university in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Arellano Felix even kept the business in the family once she stepped into her role of power; her son, Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano, or "The Engineer," was her other half. Until he was caught last week, anyway. And now it's all up to his narcomami to keep it together.
Sandra Avila Beltran, or "La Reina del Pacifico"
As the niece of famed drug lord Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, The Queen of the Pacific was bound to become cartel royalty. But no one could predict the stranglehold that Avila Beltran would eventually have over the drug world -- not even that "Narco Godfather" uncle of hers.
It was Avila Beltran's beauty and charisma that helped her climb the ladder of the cartel world, and once she was on top, she became even more dangerous, making connections with leaders in not only the Mexican cartels, but in the Colombian drug world as well. Her affair with Colombian mobster Juan Diego "El Tigre" Espinoza helped secure connections between the Mexican Sinaloa cartel and the Colombian Norte del Valle cartel.
Those ties have helped Sinaloa become one of the most established, dangerous cartels in the world. But for Avila Beltran, it was a short-lived glory. She was arrested with Juan Diego Espinoza in Mexico City in 2007, and was ultimately convicted of laundering billions of dollars in drug money.
Claudia Ochoa Felix, "La Emperatiz de los Antrax"
The Kim Kardashian lookalike known as "La Emperatiz de los Antrax" gained notoriety after reporters started to notice her active -- and quite shameless -- social media accounts. The rumored Anthrax leader is said to be a deadly assassin, an idea reiterated by poses with hot pink machine guns and bodyguards on Ochoa Felix's Instagram and Facebook accounts.
For the record, Ochoa Felix denies being associated with the Anthrax assassins, but we're not sure anyone's buying it.
Estrella Hermila Ramos
Estrella's father, Juan "Johnny" Ramos, was a known leader in the Sinaloa cartel before being gunned down. Estrella stepped right into her father's footsteps, a job that was made easier by the fact that she'd grown up knowing exactly what her father did for a living. Estrella and her mother, Acela del Carmen Lizárraga, started off building a small-time cocaine shipment service to the United States.
But as the business grew, so did their role in the drug world, with the women climbing the ranks of the Sinaloa cartel before being caught for distribution at different times. They both served out their sentences, with Hermila Ramos serving 40 months before being released.
Estrella Hermila Ramos was released in 2008, and now claims that she lives a straight life well outside of the cartels.
A model and beauty queen, no one would have suspected Laura Zuniga of being a member of a notorious cartel. But Laura's arrest, centered around a scandalous drug bust in 2008, defined the beauty queen's role as a key player in the Juarez cartel.
Zuniga has a number of beauty queen titles under her belt, including Nuestra Bella Sinaloa, but none of the crowns or accolades she'd earned could get her out of some serious charges in Jalisco, when she was found with seven men in a gun-filled truck while carrying $53,000 in cash, two AR-15 rifles, three handguns, 633 cartridges of different calibers, and 16 cellphones.
Rumored to be the girlfriend of Luis David García Gutiérrez, brother of Raúl "El Doctor" García, a key player in the Juarez cartel, Zuniga initially told investigators that she was going shopping in Bolivia and Colombia, but later told a radio station an even crazier story about how she'd been kidnapped by her high-ranking drug lord boyfriend, who she'd had no idea was a narco-trafficker.
Ultimately, Zuniga was sentenced to 40 days of house arrest in 2009, and quietly disappeared from the limelight. However, she made a return to modeling in 2010, the following year, and has given no further indication of ties to the cartel.
Blanca Cazares Salazar, or "El Emperatiz"
Working on behalf "El Mayo," the famed leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Cazares Salazar made a name in the narco-trafficking world by using her proficiency with numbers to funnel a whole lot of funds from the Sinaloa cartel into legitimate businesses.
Cazares Salazar has been affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel for many years; El Mayo hired the "pretty young blond ranch girl" to change currencies in the early '90s, when the two were dating. El Emperatiz eventually worked her way up to becoming the key financial person in the cartel.
But that role as CFO of the Sinaloa cartel eventually caught up with her, and the U.S. Treasury froze her assets and siezed her U.S. businesses in San Diego and Los Angeles. She's been on the run ever since.
Ivonne Soto Vega, or "La Pantera"
Another of the Arellano Felix sisters, Ivonne Soto Vega was the mastermind of the money laundering operations with the Tijuana cartel. According to authorities, her years spent learning to launder money alongside her brothers Ramon and Benjamin prepared her well, and Ivonne successfully ran a sophistocated cell that laundered $130 million over a period of three years.
But the girl who followed in her big brothers' steps was caught alongside her brothers, too. La Pantera was arrested in 2001 at 50 years old. Her sister now runs the cartel.
María Guadalupe Jiménez López, or "La Tosca"
A member of Los Zetas, Jimenez Lopez's nickname "La Tosca," or the tough one, is fitting. She's one of Mexico's most notorious assassins, and excelled at other cartel business as well. She committed robberies, kidnappings, and watched over the cartel drug spots in Monterey until her capture in 2011.
After authorities caught up with her, La Tosca admitted to 20 murders of rivals and authorities, including the infamous murder of detective Antonio Montiel Alvarez.
Veronica Mireya Moreno Carreon, or "La Flaca"
Don't let Veronica Mireya Moreno Carreon's nickname, "Skinny Girl," fool you. She's hardly a pushover. In fact, she's considered to be the first female to rise to the ranks of leader in the Zetas, a role in which she managed all of the drug traffic in the Monterrey town where she lived.
Once a decorated police officer in San Nicolas de los Garza, Moreno Carreon eventually succumbed to temptation and joined the other side of the drug wars, working her way up to one of the top bosses in the Zetas.
Her glory within Los Zetas was shortlived, though -- La Flaca was busted a year after taking her leading role in the narco group in a stolen car with a ton of drugs, including 100 bags of cocaine and 50 bags of crack.
La Guera Loca
La Guera Loca, or "Crazy Blonde," doesn't have a real name. Well, not one that authorities know, anyway. She was identified by her appearance in a horrific Gulf cartel assasination video, in which she beheads a member of Los Zetas with a machete before picking up his head and holding it in the air for the cameras.
Another member of the Gulf cartel steps in and peels off the face of the rival with a pocketknife, and the rest of his body is mutilated and dismembered. His face was later found stitched onto a soccer ball, and La Guera Loca has thus far not been identified.
Despite her anonymity, La Guera Loca is one of the most wanted women in Mexico, and one of the most dangerous women in the Gulf cartel.
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