You may not have known there was an actual “Queen of the Pacific,” but the media gave this name to a Mexican woman for her lavish lifestyle and prominence as a woman in the drug trafficking business. Who is she? She’s Sandra Ávila Beltrán, a drug cartel leader who was arrested in September 2007 and is now being charged with organized crime, money laundering, and conspiracy.
Beltrán was born in 1960 in Baja, California into a family of drug smugglers. Her uncle, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, is known as the godfather of Mexican drug smuggling. Beltrán has been married twice: each time to an ex-police-officer-turned-drug-trafficker. Hired assassins eventually killed both of Beltrán’s husbands for various reasons. Most recently, Beltrán has been involved in a relationship with Juan Diego Espinoza Ramírez (known as “El Tigre” or “The Tiger” among drug traffickers), who is likely an integral part of the Colombian Norte del Valle drug cartel. For this reason, along with the fact that she and Ramírez were found by the investigators possessing over nine tons of cocaine, Mexican and U.S. investigators believe Beltrán is an essential link between the Colombian Norte del Valle cartel and the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel.
On September 28, 2007, Beltrán and Ramírez were arrested in Mexico City. The arrest was the end of a four-year investigation involving thirty federal agents. Suspicions began to arise around Beltrán when she asked the police for help in rescuing her son, who was kidnapped with a $5 million ransom in 2002. When questioned by the police, Beltrán described herself as a housewife who earned income selling clothing and renting homes. The kidnapping and Beltrán’s description of herself aroused suspicion among police investigators, and this incident eventually led to her arrest in 2007.
Beltrán is the subject of a book called Queen of the Pacific: It’s Time To Talk by Mexican journalist Julio Scherer García. The book is based on interviews García conducted with Beltrán from prison and, according to García, “is of tremendous value because [Beltrán] opens up many avenues of investigation,” regarding Mexico’s drug cartels.