Mexico has extradited Sandra Avila Beltran, believed to be the country's highest-profile woman drug smuggler, to the United States to face cocaine trafficking charges at a U.S. District Court in Florida, it was announced late on Thursday.
Mexican officials said Sandra was handed over to U.S. authorities in Mexico earlier on Thursday, and has since been taken to Florida to face cocaine possession and trafficking charges.
Sandra, dubbed by the media as "Queen of the Pacific," has been in prison ever since she was arrested in Mexico City in September 2007. Mexican prosecutors accuse her of being a major player in building up the infamous Sinaloa Cartel in the 1990s.
She is alleged to have supported Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, currently Mexico's most-wanted man, in raising the Sinaloa cartel. The cartel is currently one of the most powerful organized criminal gangs in the Americas, and its leader Guzman has been on the run since he escaped from a Mexican prison ten years ago.
Sandra was also accused of being the link between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia's Norte del Valle Cartel. She is said to have played an important role in setting up some of the first smuggling routes up Mexico's Pacific Coast into California. Notably, most of the cocaine produced in Colombia is smuggled into the United States via Colombia.
Although Sandra was initially charged with money laundering and drug trafficking, Mexican prosecutors failed to make the drug charges stick. Nevertheless, she has been in prison in Mexico on money laundering charges since 2007.
Incidentally, she is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known in the 1980s as the godfather of the Mexican drug trade. Her extradition to the United States comes after a long legal battle that began at the end of 2010.
Mexico is currently struggling to contain violence unleashed by rival drug cartels, mainly in the northern and western states, as they fight each other for control of lucrative smuggling routes to the United States.
The Mexican government says that more than 45,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in the country since a major offensive against drug gangs was launched in 2006 by President Felipe Calderon whose term ends in December next.
by RTT Staff Writer
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