MIAMI — The media have dubbed her the “Queen of the Pacific,” a rare woman who allegedly reached the top of the male-dominated Colombian-Mexican drug world with her feminine mystique.
She was featured in the famous drug ballad titled “The Queen of the Queens,” sung by a band called Los Tucanes de Tijuana. One line in the narcocorrido captured her essence: “The more beautiful the rose, the sharper the thorns.”
Her name: Sandra Avila Beltran. The raven-haired 51-year-old — at least that’s what her arrest form says her age is — will appear in Miami federal court Tuesday for her arraignment and bond hearing. She was extradited last week from Mexico, where she had been arrested in 2007, on charges of conspiring to smuggle loads of cocaine into the United States in 2001.
“She is very Cleopatra-ish, like the Queen of the Nile,” said Miami defense attorney Lilly Ann Sanchez, who represented two other defendants in the same case. “She was able to maneuver her way in a man’s world and use the fact that she was a woman to her advantage in more ways than one.”
Her reputation was gained by her dominant role in the powerful Sinaloa cartel, her romantic relationship with a Colombian drug kingpin and her influence over ocean supply routes.
In June, after years of legal fighting, a Mexican court granted her extradition to face the U.S. trafficking charges, which have alleged links to cocaine seizures in Chicago. In 2001, federal agents intercepted a telephone call in which Avila allegedly sought payment for 220 pounds of cocaine.
“Sandra has maintained she was not involved in any of the allegations against her in the indictment,” said her attorney, Stephen Ralls, of Tucson, Ariz., who has represented many major accused traffickers.
Both Mexican and U.S. authorities say Avila was born into the business. She is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, a trafficker from Guadalajara who was once considered the godfather of the Mexican drug trade. He is serving a 40-year sentence for smuggling and the 1984 murder of a U.S. drug enforcement agent, Enrique Camarena.