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OPINION: The arrest of Emma Coronel, wife of “El Chapo”, one more case of criminal empowerment of women

Once again the North American government is shaking the world of drug trafficking in Mexico; this Monday, Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the former head of the Sinaloa Cartel, was detained at Dulles International Airport, within the territorial demarcation of Virginia, in the United States.

The wife of “El Chapo” Guzmán, according to a press release issued this Monday by the United States Department of Justice, “was arrested on charges related to her alleged participation in international drug trafficking.” The charges attributed to him are for crimes committed in Mexico.

According to an official statement from the United States government, Colonel Aispuro “is accused of participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the United States,” which is presumably done in coordination with members of the fraction of the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Joaquín Guzmán’s brother, Aureliano Guzmán Loera, “El Guano.”

To substantiate the arrest of Emma Coronel, the US government also indicates that she conspired, along with others – who could be the children of Joaquín Guzmán, Iván Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar and Ovidio Guzmán López – to help “El Chapo” in his escape from the federal prison of El Altiplano, located in Almoloya de Juárez, in the State of Mexico, in events that occurred on July 11, 2015.

Planned a Third El Chapo Escape

Not only that. The United States Department of Justice also reports that Emma Coronel Aispuro was involved in unspecified plans to help Joaquín Guzmán escape from the Chihuahua Federal Prison while awaiting his extradition to the United States, which occurred on January 19, 2017.

Although the arrest in the United States of Emma Coronel Aispuro has caused a stir in Mexico, that was only a matter of time; In the Mexican criminal world, his participation in drug trafficking activities was an open secret. Within the Sinaloa Cartel, her participation was known, if not as a boss at least as a society, with the group known as “Los Chapitos”.

According to sources within the Sinaloa Cartel, Emma Coronel had at least economic stakes derived from the drug trafficking of the group that was once commanded by Joaquín Guzmán Loera, which –after the arrest of El Chapo ”- was assumed by Aureliano Guzmán Loera, “El Guano”.

What was unknown even to the Mexican ministerial authority is his participation in the plan to escape “El Chapo” from the El Altiplano prison, which the then Attorney General’s Office (PGR) always attributed to Iván Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, who have pending criminal proceedings for these events.

Neither, until now, was it known in Mexico that Emma Coronel had been planning her husband’s escape from the Chihuahua jail while awaiting his extradition. A version within the PGR only refers to the knowledge of a plan for the escape of the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, but for that reason the proper investigation folder was not even integrated.

The arrest of Emma Coronel, in addition to highlighting the work that the US government is doing in combating the Mexican drug cartels, as if it were in place of the Attorney General’s Office, also ratifies a social phenomenon that has been on the rise in Mexico in recent years, the empowerment of women within drug cartels and organized crime cells.

Women in command

Emma Coronel’s case is neither the first nor the only one of a woman assuming the role of a man in criminal activities. The most recent case is embodied by Maria Eva Ortiz, who remains in charge of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, after her son José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, “El Marro” was arrested.

María Eva Ortiz, better known as “Ma Eva” or “La Mamá”, is the one currently in charge of the illicit business of extracting fuel from the Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) pipelines, in addition to controlling the activity of kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking and drug dealing in the center of the state of Guanajuato and part of the states of Puebla, the State of Mexico and Veracruz.

Among the women who have assumed control of the criminal activities of their husbands, there is also Clara Elena Laborín Archuleta, “La Señora”, wife of Héctor Beltrán Leyva, “El H”, who assumed control of the cartel upon death of her husband. Currently, the groups that attend the instruction of Clara Elena Laborín are fighting for control of drug trafficking in Guerrero and Morelos.

“La Señora” disputes control of the Los Beltrán Leyva cartel with his nephew Alfredo Beltrán Guzmán, “El Mochomito”, son of Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, “El Mochomo”, which has led to a bloody war that only in the last five years it has left at least 1,200 murders of members of that criminal group.

Another woman who assumed control of a criminal organization after the fall of the men is Enedina Arellano Félix, “La Mami”, who is currently recognized by the DEA as the head of the Tijuana Cartel. With a very low profile, Enedina Arellano Félix has not only been able to keep the cartel together, but has managed to expand, with the drug trafficking business, to the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sonora.

Enedina Arellano has reached an alliance with the Jalisco Nuevo Generación Cartel (CJNG), led by Nemesio Oseguera, through which it has declared war on the Sinaloa Cartel, the fraction led by Ismael Zambada García and Rafael Caro Quintero, who have led to a bloody dispute over the state of Nayarit and northern Sinaloa.

Sandra Ávila Beltrán, “La Reina del Pacifico”, is also added to the list of empowered women in drug trafficking, who to this day maintains drug trafficking activities from Sinaloa to the United States, with the support of Ismael Zambada. Sandra Ávila assumed control of the criminal cell, after the arrest of Juan Diego Espinoza Ramírez, “El Tigre”, her sentimental partner.

Another woman who also made history by submerging the criminal command that her partner controlled was Yesenia Pacheco Ramírez, “La Güera Loca”, who was the head of the Gulf Cartel’s hitmen, until in July 2014 she was captured and beheaded by a commando of the Los Zetas cartel.

Carolina Rueda Martínez, “La Pantera”, is another of those who achieved criminal empowerment. She took charge of a criminal cell of Los Zetas, after her sentimental partner, Héctor Hugo Espiricueta, “El Comandante Leo”, was arrested in the state of Hidalgo, inheriting the headquarters of that entity. Carolina was arrested in the city of Pachuca, Hidalgo, on April 18, 2011, under the accusation ordering the execution of 23 men who were related to the Gulf Cartel.

Nor can you ignore Elizabeth Garza, a criminal who has quietly passed in front of the Mexican authorities, but at 65 years of age is ranked by the DEA as one of the 15 most wanted criminals in the world.

Also on the list is Elizabeth Garza, “La Parkay”, a member of the Gulf Cartel, to which the DEA relates her to international drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion and money laundering operations and is responsible for at least 12 homicides registered in the state of Texas and Tamaulipas.

To be accountable

After the arrest of Emma Coronel, 31 years old and of dual Mexican-American nationality, the United States Department of Justice announced that it will be presented this Tuesday before a federal court in the District of Columbia where the charges will be read, this through a videoconference.

As far as is known, Emma Coronel is charged in a criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy to distribute one kilo or more of heroin, five kilograms or more of cocaine, one ton or more of marijuana and 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, which originated of Sinaloa and were destined for the retail sale in the United States.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and Deputy Director-in-Charge Steven D’Antuono of the FBI’s Washington Field Office announced that it will be the FBI’s Washington Field Office and not the DEA which will be in charge of the process.

In this way, the North American government shields itself from the possibility of a diplomatic conflict with Mexico, which could intercede for the detainee, as was the case with General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, who after being criminally prosecuted for drug trafficking in the United States was returned to Mexico due to diplomatic pressure.