Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Women Smugglers Sought by DEA

Thursday, March 11, 2010 |

31 women on list of drug smugglers sought by DEA and FBI in U.S.

El Paso Times

Thirty-one female drug smugglers are among the fugitives being sought by the DEA and FBI in U.S. border states.

They are among 385 people in border regions wanted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Federal agents described five of the women as "armed and dangerous."

U.S. lists do not include an alleged kingpin that Mexican authorities identified as Enedina Arrellano Felix of the Tijuana drug cartel, Another woman -- Sandra Avila Beltran, "Queen of the Pacific cartel" -- is in custody in Mexico.

Arrellano, along with a son, is suspected of taking over the Tijuana cartel. Like Arrellano, Avila had relatives in the drug trade. She is awaiting extradition to the United States on drug charges.

According to prosecution witnesses' testifying in the running El Paso trial of Fernando Ontiveros-Arambula, at least four women were involved in drug-trafficking.

Sylvia "Burra" Carbajal, one of the witnesses, testified that she and her sister, Yvonne Carbajal, smuggled marijuana in the El Paso-Juárez region. She said she also ferried money forOntiveros-Arambula, and that both she and her sister were romantically involved with the defendant.

"I grew up around drugs all my life," said Sylvia Carbajal, who was indicted on drug charges in a separate proceeding.

Authorities have not said whether Yvonne Carbajal will be charged, too.

Last week, witnesses made references to a woman some knew as "La Guera," or "blondie." Other witnesses identified her as Elizabeth

"Liz" Lares-Valenzuela, who survived a shooting in Juárez in 2008.

Lares-Valenzuela was indicted last year on U.S. drug charges. A DEA agent testified Monday that she became a fugitive after initially cooperating with the agency.

During the trial, a former Juárez police captain, testified that a woman known to drug-traffickers only as "La Tia" (the aunt), was the conduit for all communications between Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera and his operatives in Chihuahua state.

A woman in Juárez named Juana said she got involved in drug-trafficking to help her husband, who was in law enforcement and was also a drug dealer. She is not involved in the federal trial in El Paso, so the El Paso Times is not publishing her last name.

Juana got caught once and served a two-year prison sentence. She said she and her husband avoided problems during the drug wars by not crossing the cartels.

"If you don't steal from them, then they leave you alone," she said. "Many of the people who were killed in Juárez owed money or stole drugs or money from the cartels."

Sandalio "Sandy" Gonzalez, a retired DEA official formerly assigned to El Paso, said women drug-traffickers are no different from men in many respects.

"There have been high-profile women traffickers, Colombian and Mexican, who have not received as much publicity as their male counterparts. They can be just as bad as the men," Gonzalez said.

Before he retired, Gonzalez supervised investigations of the Juárez drug cartel, and investigated Colombian cartels while stationed in Florida.

He said Griselda Blanco, of Colombia, was a notorious drug smuggler in Miami. She was called the "Godmother of Cocaine," and had a reputation for ruthlessness.

DEA officials said her organization was tied to 200 killings in Florida during the 1970s and '80s. She led a ring that operated from Medellin, Colombia; Miami; and Los Angeles. Convicted and sentenced to prison, she was deported to Colombia in 2004.

Ignacia "Nacha" Jasso was considered the first undisputed drug lord in Chihuahua state to control the traffic of marijuana, cocaine and heroin in the early 1900s.

She worked from her home at 218 Degollado in downtown Juárez, and was involved in the drug trade from the late 1920s to the mid-1950s.

Mexican historians say she rose to power after ordering the deaths of 11 Chinese immigrants in Juárez who sought to control the heroin trade.

Oscar Martinez, author of several books on the border, said Jasso did not figure prominently in earlier Juárez history books because of the nature of the drug trade at the time.

"La Nacha was a major player in the drug trade back then, but even for a legendary figure like her, drug-trafficking was not as major a factor in the life of Juárez as it is now," said Martinez, a Juárez native and history professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "Everyone knew it was there, and there was the occasional gang fight over drugs, but drug-trafficking did not rise above a nuisance."

Jasso allegedly enjoyed protection from police and other officials. Some believe she died a natural death in her 70s, although the exact date is unknown.

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