The “success” that Cristel Gómez Espinoza, known as the “Reina del Sur Tica” (Cost Rican Queen of The South), as a powerful narco leader, would be a motivation for other women to follow her in the dangerous ‘narco’ – the world of drug trafficking.
At only 24, the young woman managed to create an entire empire, in charge of moving cocaine from the Panama border to supply narco groups such as that of Erwin Guido Toruño, aka El Gringo.
“If we take into account that there is a psychological phenomenon that is produced by the example, then we should expect other women to decide to take more prominence within the narco,” said Gerardo Castaing, criminologist and former Organismo de Investigacion (OIJ) agent.
Castaing said that this change could occur not only because Gómez “opened the way”, but also because there is a change at the social level in the country, in which the figure of women is increasingly important in all areas, including in drug trafficking.
“In Costa Rica, women have been part of narco organizations for years, such as in Hatillo and Sagrada Familia, that is very common, change comes more from the point of view of leadership,” he said.
Another example of this situation was the case of a woman named Núñez Sequeira, aka La Señora, who was arrested in May 2018 for managing a drug gang based in Desamparados, San José.
Castaing adds,“In Tres Ríos we also had a case of a criminal organization that was led by that family’s grandmother. One in this work realizes that there are more women involved than can be believed.”
Criminal analyst Álvaro Ramos agreed with Castaing about the fact that women have been involved in the world of narco for many years, but noted that the work they had was not as important as men’s.
But that has changed recently. “What we have seen historically is how women are involved, especially in cases of smuggling drugs into the prisons, or to move them from one country to another without attracting so much attention, but certainly they have never been the leaders,” he said.
Ramos said that women have had more importance in other crimes such as in trafficking of persons and corruption. However, according to Ramos, the Reina del Sur Tica changed all that.
“Before the Reina del Sur Tica, women could only think of taking over a small narco group to sell retail,” Ramos said.
Ramos explained that in markets like San Jose, women were recognized for leading small gangs dedicated to drug distribution, but not at a higher level.
According to the analyst, although the Reina del Sur Tica would be the first great narco leader in Costa Rica, this feminine revolution has been taking place for many years in the world of narco, especially in Mexico.
Imported from Mexico
In Mexico, there have been very prominent women have been known for having important roles and leaders within the cartels.
One of them was Zulema Yulia Hernández, who captured the attention of the narco Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán while both were imprisoned in the 1990s. Once free, Hernández worked for the Guzman gang.
In December 2008, Hernández was killed and her body was abandoned in a car near Mexico City. Her executioners marked the body, in the breasts and stomach, with a “Z”, the symbol of Los Zetas, hitmen of the cártel del Golfo, a rival of the Sinaloa once led by Guzman.
Also noteworthy is the name Sandra Ávila Beltrán, the Reina del Pacífico (Queen of the Pacific), who was arrested in 2007 for trafficking cocaine to the United States in tuna vessels and after serving a 7-year sentence was released in 2015.
Ávila is the niece of Juan José Quintero Payán, recently extradited to the United States, and Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, considered in the past as the “Jefe de jefes” (boss of all).
There is also Cantalicia Garza Azuara, aka La Canti or the Reina del Golfo (Queen of the Gulf), apprehended on April 17, 2007. Sister of Josué Garza Azuara, El Barbas, the operator of the cártel del Golfo cell, dedicated to money laundering, trafficking in drugs, weapons and people. He is currently subject to criminal proceedings in a court in Tamaulipas.
Machismo still reigns in the narco world
What has prevented women from rising to the high ranks of drug trafficking organizations is machismo.
Both in Mexico and in Costa Rica, Ramos explained that, although the change taking place is evident, there is still the thinking that a man is the one who has to be in charge.
“The narco does not depend only on the local environment, it depends on how the forces are moving internationally and still the groups that dominate at this level do not have any leadership of women, so that will not allow them to have growth within of the groups,” he said.
According to Álvaro Ramos, Gomez’s success is due to the fact that she knew how to work with discretion and, in addition, she got involved from a very young age in the world of drug trafficking, this added to the fact that she knew how to get the most out of her beauty and intelligence.
The case of the Reina del Sur Tica seems very special, since despite her youth she managed to break through in such a macho environment.