Laura Zuniga, a beautiful young woman that was recently crowned Miss Hispanic America, was arrested last week outside of Guadalajara, Mexico and is in jail pending charges of engaging in racketeering, drug trafficking, and money laundering. At the time of her arrest (along with seven other upstanding Mexican citizens), Ms. Zuniga was packing various 9 mm pistols, semi-automatic rifles and $53,000 in cash and was riding around in an armored SUV.
Newspapers plastered their front pages with images of Zuniga in bikinis and high heels. All seemed to be competing for the wittiest headlines. "Miss Narco," blared the tabloid El Metro. "Miss Sinaloa and the Seven Narcos," said the normally high brow El Universal.
But beneath the media frolics, the tale of the fallen beauty queen highlights the dark side of how sprawling crime syndicates have penetrated so many areas of Mexican life. With the cartels estimated to make $30 billion from smuggling narcotics, the U.S. Treasury has named dozens of Mexican companies, from dairy farms to clothing chains, as money launderers. In November, the owner of a third division football club, the Mapaches of Michoacan state, was charged with drug trafficking. Crime kingpins are also alleged to finance popular Mexican singers, who croon about the gangsters' exploits.Illicit drug trafficking in Mexico is now worth roughly $10 billion and is quickly expanding. 92% of cocaine entering the US comes through the Southwest US border, which has come to be labeled the "drug corridor." Furthermore, most of the marijuana and heroin entering the US also flows across the US-Mexico border. Drug traffickers are going to all new levels to ensure the speedy and secure transit of their products into the lucrative US market. Looks like recruiting beauty queens to handle some of the merchandise is just another way of doing business in the Mexican drug trade.