Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Part I and II La Reina del Sur: Costa Rica’s Most Notorious Female Cartel Leader

Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat  TY TNL Costa Rican Star
Cristel Gomez Espinoza, aka La Reina del Sur loaded onto aircraft 

The Costa Rica Star is publishing an original exclusive six part series from the upcoming book “Drug Diva”, by Star reporter Carol Vaughn, author of “Crazy Jungle Love“.
These sneak-preview excerpts document the astonishing saga of Cristel Gomez Espinoza, one of Central America’s most dangerous and powerful drug capos. Look for the entire book to be released at the end of 2020.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 – Palmar Norte de Osa

It was going to be a slow day at the Dental Clinic of Centro Comercial in Palmar Norte. The 9:30 appointment was already twenty minutes late when the receptionist walked over to the picture window to see if the patient was on his way in from the parking lot. She was shocked to see two unmarked black SUVs pull up in front of the adjacent Boutique Donna Rose, and disgorge four armed officers who quickly entered the premises. Then officers of the Fuerza Publica screeched to a halt in front of the store and took up guard positions out front. 


Cristel Gomez Espinoza, aka La Reina del Sur, had decided to go shopping that day. She was 5-months pregnant and needed some loose waisted new pants. Cristel had eluded the authorities for nine months – she was wanted on an international arrest warrant for drug dealing and operating a drug cartel out of her home in Cuesta de Corredores, some 130 kilometers away. Someone had spotted her entering the boutique, and had called the cops. They were near the store anyway, staking out another suspect wanted for capture, but flew into action when they heard that La Reina was so close. This would be the arrest of the decade for them.

Cristel is only 24 years old. She allegedly runs one of the biggest drug cartels in Central America, which she inherited from her boyfriend Erwing Guido Toruño, known as “El Gringo”. Guido was killed in December 2017 by rival cartel enemies, gunned down in a flurry of 139 bullets. Cristel is said to be keeping the cartel together, managing the sale, distribution and smuggling of mostly cocaine up from South America, through Costa Rica on the way to the USA. Cristel is a very wealthy chica.

The officers entered Donna Rose and found the owner Karla Steller, two clothing distributors, and the petite Cristel, looking at a rack of designer pants. Everyone was asked to show their cedulas (identification), but Cristel said she had left hers at home. To the officers, she looked nothing like the notoriously beautiful Reina del Sur. She looked a bit pudgy, and was dressed in a pink silk pajama ensemble and flip flops. She did not have her usual 3-man security team with her. What she did have, were the words Reina del Sur tattooed on the insides of both wrists, and other visible identifying tattoos on her back and arms. The fugitive, dubbed “Pequeña pero Matona” which translates to “Tiny but Killer”, was now in custody.

When the dental receptionist was asked why she thought La Reina was out without her security detail, she responded, “Cristel owns the Southern Zone. All of it. She feels safe here as in her own backyard.” But someone ratted her out, and called law enforcement. Her arrest was such a triumph for the local authorities, that for the first time ever, they chose a helicopter to fly her up to San Jose to be arraigned. Cristel began feeling sick while in flight and revealed she was pregnant. Upon landing, they took her immediately to hospital Calderon Guardia.

On December 16, Cristel Gomez gave birth via c-section to a lovely baby girl. She named her Valentina. The baby daddy was present for the delivery, all details of which were handled by Cristel’s lawyer. The birth took place in Costa Rica’s finest private hospital, Hospital La Biblica, all arrangements made with the permission of the Women’s Jail and law enforcement who had to protect her while in hospital. Everyone in the hospital was told they were about to have a very special patient, who expected the best possible care. One orderly said $100 bills were distributed to ensure good care, others denied this was true. In Costa Rica it is said that when wallets come out, even dogs dance.
 Costa Rica Cartel Leaders Cristel Gomez Espinoza "La Reina del Sur and deceased boyfriend
Erwing Guido Toruño, known as "El Gringo"
Cristel was given the usual 90-day Preventive Detention sentence by the court. This allows them time to build a case against the accused, time they dearly need since Cristel’s legal team is top drawer. It also provides time for the jail to accommodate someone of Cristel’s fame and rumored danger as a prisoner. She was put in a two-person jail cell, away from the rest of the inmates. She will be allowed to keep her baby with her for three years.

The Assistant Director of Penitentiary Police, Nils Ching, commented, “The arrival of the prisoner activated a security protocol corresponding to the level of perceived threat of having such a prisoner in our facility.” No details were given as to how many guards would be watching Cristel’s cell. She is being jailed in the notorious Women’s El Buen Pastor, currently being renovated and renamed Centro de Atencion Integral (CAI) Vilma Curling Rivera. Life there will be grim, even for someone of Cristel’s wealth and fame.

Later on the arrest night of August 20th, Boutique Donna Rose evaporated. All the designer clothing and handbags, many worth $500 or more, were taken away in the middle of the night. When neighbors were asked about the sudden store disappearance, a few chuckled, saying the arrangement had never been permanent. No one buys $500 handbags in Palmar Norte de Osa. Off the record, neighboring store employees stated the boutique was a front for money laundering, and a stop for Cristel and her posse on the way in and out of Panama.

Palmar Norte is in the center of a banana-growing region, and is surrounded by densely forested mountains. It is a major transportation hub for the Southern Zone, with a very active airport in nearby Palmar Sur, with regular flights up to San Jose. Neighbors suspected that Boutique Donna Rose was being used for drug drops, and sometimes for sleepovers for Cristel on the way to and from San Jose.

Most people know Palmar Norte as the epicenter of the stone spheres, the pre-Columbian stone balls discovered by the United Fruit Company in the 1930s. There is a museum and guided tours of the iconic stone spheres, some 300 in number, but their origin and purpose remain a complete mystery.
The region is also known as a hotbed of illicit drug trafficking, human trafficking, and eco-trafficking of exotic plants and animals. Residents are reluctant to speak with the press about the goings-on and inhabitants of the region. One resident stated, “Look, Lady, the whole town is on the payroll of La Reina. That’s what keeps her safe, and keeps food on our tables. When she discovers who blew the whistle on her, that person better make sure they are right with God, because they will be meeting him very soon.”

Part II

La Reina Del Sur: How Costa Rica’s Drug Diva Ascended the Throne

Cristel Yariella Gomez Espinoza, aka, La Reina del Sur de Costa Rica, was born into narco aristocracy

Her father, brother, uncle, husband, boyfriends and other family members managed the movement of cocaine from the border of Panama into Costa Rica, providing drugs to notorious narco-traffickers who then smuggled the drugs into the United States.

Adrian Galeano Calvo of El Universal de Mexico newspaper stated last year about Cristel, “At only 24 years, this young woman has succeeded in creating a drug dynasty, managing the movement of cocaine from the border of Panama to provide narcotics to Costa Rican groups like that of “El Gringo” Guido.” El Gringo was Cristel’s boyfriend until his violent death in 2017. Cristel then assumed the leadership of his cartel. She hit the ground running.

Cristel belongs to an elite group of second generation cartel kids who have grown up enjoying extraordinary wealth and privileges. They are called “narco-juniors”, or in Spanish “chiquinarcos”. El Chapo Guzman had chiquinarcos. So did Pablo Escobar and dozens of other powerful narco-traffickers.

This new generation of cartel leaders are more lethal than their predecessors. “They are ideal killers; young, beautiful and reckless,” said Andrew Chestnut of Virginia Commonwealth University. By keeping low profile they avoid suspicion where men doing the same job would quickly find themselves in trouble.”

The face of Latin cartel leadership is changing as more females are taking on leadership roles in drug trafficking and assassinations. Some are recruited in prisons, some work their way up from low level jobs like look-outs or hookers – but the elite, like Cristel – are born into cartel families. Narco-trafficking is in their blood. Costa Rica is keeping up with the best of them.

Cristel is the daughter of Alberto Gomez Calderon, a bold and handsome narco-trafficker who became famous as the longest-held kidnap victim in Costa Rican history. He was kidnapped in 2009 by a rival drug gang made up of Colombians and one Canadian, in retaliation for having carried out a “tumbonazo”, having stolen another drug gang’s cocaine shipment. The kidnappers demanded $2.5 million in ransom money, to compensate for the missing drug shipment of 400 kilos of pure cocaine. Gomez’s captors showed him no mercy: he was kicked brutally, and repeatedly, beaten with electric cords, and the torture was videotaped and sent to his family to encourage ransom payment. The family sold the family farm for $300,000, a fraction of the ransom requested, and Gomez was mercifully set free. Negotiation for his release was conducted by Cristel’s grandfather, an Evangelical minister.

The four men accused of Alberto’s kidnap were brought to justice, sentenced to 27 years of prison. A fifth managed to escape, and is still at large. The house where Alberto was held in Guanacaste has since been demolished. After Alberto’s release, Alberto and Cristel, father and daughter, began to work together in the family drug business. As happens in the Italian Mafia, Tico narco-traffickers are taught to trust only family.

Cristel had apprenticed in the drug business at the elbow of her father. She knew all the heavy hitters, their body guards, their drug routes, even how they liked their coffee when they came to visit don Alberto in their home in La Cuesta de Corredores. Their home is modest, designed not to attract attention from anyone wanting to cause trouble or settle vendettas. In the six months Alberto was held by his kidnappers, Cristel slid smoothly into the role of the gang leader, handling the family business seamlessly. She was only fourteen years old.

The father/daughter team continued to succeed and strengthen after he was freed. Cristel had dropped out of school after elementary school, but continued her education in the family business, with help from uncles and brothers. She was assigned a 3-man protection team to escort her, and two cars to transport and follow her. She began to completely remake herself physically, changing her bust size and taking advantage of the excellent plastic surgery of Costa Rica to remake her face to be more beautiful.

Men were instantly attracted to her, to her power, especially those in her business, and she eventually married Sanchez Vigil, with whom she had two children. Her business skills seemed to out-distance her maternal skills, and the children were eventually given to family members to raise. Cristel’s notoriety spread, and she was given the title La Reina del Sur, inspired by a Mexican drug diva by the same name.

On June 19, 2015, Cristel’s luck seemed to run out. Cristel and her three companions were stopped by police while en route to Panama. When the two-car caravan refused to stop, the Fuerza Publica fired into the air, and they were taken into custody. They found 15 kilos of heroin hidden in a spare tire, and in extra car batteries in the vehicles. There were also numerous illegal weapons seized. As in her recent arrest, Cristel had been ratted out anonymously. Her family impressed upon her again the importance of keeping things in the family.

Amazingly, after serving only two years in jail for the 2015 arrest, Cristel’s legal team managed to get her released from jail in 2018. Cristel Gomez Espinoza then disappeared, though her narco-trafficking activities continued. Amazing stories began to be heard about her. Someone claiming to have seen her at a party, told a story of a young man draping his penis on Cristel’s shoulder to tease her. She allegedly grabbed a nearby machete, cut the man’s organ off, then proceeded to feed it to him. She began to be known as “Pequñea, pero Matona”, Tiny but Killer. Her fame for brutality spread far and wide, whether deserved or not.

In a tiny country known for not having a military, for being dedicated to peace, it is an amazing thing to have produced someone like La Reina del Sur. Neighbors of hers speak of how smart she is, despite little education. They speak of how computer literate, and worldly she is, what a business tycoon she is. What a global vision she has, how well she manages men twice her age. They speak of her out of eyesight and hearing of other neighbors. They are clearly afraid of being found out. Tiny but Killer.

Next Post are Parts III and IV


  1. Nice article Chivis, a change of scenery, Costa Rica is a thriving country for drug Lord's, So la Reina del sure is free doing drug distribution, Pura vida.
    El Perin de Tamp

  2. Is Costa Rica getting bad like Mexico?

  3. Costa Rica had landing strips for Nicaraguan contras business like weapons, drug trafficking, contraband of contras and more and more drug trafficking, not for nothing Rafael Caro Quintero was caught there with Guadalajara governor's niece after the murder of Kiki Camarena, more proof of US drug trafficking ties.
    Thos Reina del Sur looks like she killed her former gringo boyfriend to recover her business they grew together, for betraying her while she was in prison where he probably put her, but she did not keep her knees closed either, funny how Bananas keep popping up, along with Panama and United Fruit co. Who got the CIA created to shift foreign policy expenses to the US taxpayer through a complicit government who never knows anything about anything or got it all classified for 50 years because of "national security concerns"...
    Thos mini-muñeca must have got ratted out by el Gringo associates wh ok do not like her murdering leadership.
    But how come there are evangistas always in the mix wherever you go, could they be all related?


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