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Mon Mar 30 01:48:58 SAST 2015

Catwalk on the wild side

Sapa-AFP | 30 November, 2012 00:38
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. File photo

Behind many Mexican drug traffickers there is a beautiful woman.

Some former beauty queens have gone from the glorifying catwalk to the humiliating perp walk.

For Maria Susana Flores Gamez, Woman of Sinaloa 2012, it was a case of fatal attraction.

The 22-year-old brunette was killed in a gunfight between a suspected drug gang and soldiers in the northwestern state of Sinaloa last weekend.

Flores was riding in a car with suspected gang members, including her boyfriend, when the group engaged in a running gun battle with troops.

Four civilians, including Flores, and a soldier were killed in the shootout.

The troops reported that the model had come out of the car with a weapon in her hand. She appeared to have been used as "a human shield", according to an official in the prosecutor's office.

Authorities suspect the group was a cell working for the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most wanted man, himself married to a beauty queen.

People in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, claim to have the most beautiful women in Mexico, reputed to be tall women with tough characters. But some end up in relationships with drug traffickers who lavish expensive designer clothes, high heels and diamonds on them.

Gangsters "always want to be accompanied by beautiful women, and they transform them to their taste with plastic surgery", said Elmer Mendoza, a Sinaloa native who writes novels about drug cartels.

In 2007, six years after he escaped from jail in a laundry basket, Guzman married Emma Coronel Aispuro, 18, whom he helped win a pageant at a local fair in the neighbouring state of Durango.

Jose Carlos Ceniceros, co-author of the book Las Jefas del Narco (The Women Narco Chiefs), said the dangerous world of drug trafficking can be a potent attraction to women with few economic opportunities.

"There are female hitmen, for example, who may not be as pretty as the pageant contestants.

"They get used to a life of luxury and take risks, assuming they will die soon, but they want that fleeting moment of glory."

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