Latin America

Latin America’s drug queens emerge from the narco shadows– Emma Coronel Aispuro was known as ‘La Reinita’ or ‘The Little Queen’ to those in the Mexican underworld, famous on social media for flaunting her narco-funded lifestyle.

But Coronel, the former beauty queen turned fashion designer famous for being the wife of Mexican drugs lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman was more than an accessory.

Earlier this year, she was arrested in Washington DC on drug trafficking charges. She is due to be sentenced this week.

Her hearing comes after several recent court cases that have exposed how women are playing prominent roles in Latin American drug cartels.

Coronel (31) met El Chapo, currently serving life in a maximum security jail in Colorado, in Mexico when she was 17. The pair married soon after.

At her husband’s trial in 2019, Coronel became known for her designer clothing and bags. But it has since been revealed she carved out an unusual role in the Sinaloa cartel, helping to control access to her husband.

“Female participation in organised crime is not an exception,” says Cecilia Farfan-Mendez, a scholar at the University of California in San Diego. “In fact, it can be quite advantageous for criminal groups who benefit from the fact that law enforcement and the media rarely think of women as high-ranking members with power.”

A day after Coronel’s first court appearance two months ago, Jessica Oseguera, the 34-year-old daughter of El Chapo’s rival cartel boss, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, was sentenced to two and a half years for helping her father and his cartel launder money.

Last month, a Chicago court sentenced Guadalupe Fernandez Valencia, known as ‘la Patrona’ or ‘the Boss’, to 10 years. She worked for years as the right-hand woman of El Chapo’s son, moving tons of drugs to the US and laundering the proceeds to cities around Mexico.

In July, Luz Irene Fajardo Campos was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Also known as ‘the Boss’, she sourced cocaine in Colombia and trafficked it through Mexico to the US.

Prof Arlene Tickner, the author of a study on women and organised crime, said: “In the rare instances in which women exercise leadership within criminal structures, this is usually the result of sharing sentimental or family ties with male leaders.”

Women in cartels also commit violence. In February, Colombian police captured Yarenis Isabel Sanchez Alvarez, a 24-year-old contract killer for Colombia’s biggest drugs gang.

Coronel, who faces of 10 years for money laundering and conspiring to import drugs, will be sentenced in Washington DC on Wednesday.

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