Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican police have arrested the wife of a jailed leader of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, authorities said Tuesday, making her the latest woman accused of a high-profile role in the country's underworld.
Clara Elena Laborin, 52, was detained on Monday in Hermosillo, northwestern Sonora state, along with another cartel operator, Alan Contreras, according to the federal police.
Nicknamed "La Senora" (The Mrs.), Laborin is the wife of Hector Beltran Leyva, who was captured in 2014.
Laborin is "identified as the head of operations of a criminal cell with a presence in Sonora state," Omar Garcia Harfuch, head of federal police investigations, told a news conference.
She and Contreras "are considered among the main generators of violence in Acapulco," where Laborin coordinated criminal groups, Garcia Harfuch said.
The Beltran Leyva drug cartel is entangled in a bloody turf war with the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, a conflict blamed for turning the once glamorous Pacific port city into Mexico's murder capital.
Acapulco's murder rate has soared to 111 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015, with state officials linking most of the killings to gang conflicts.
The Beltran Leyva family used to be among Mexico's most powerful criminal groups, but the brothers running the cartel have been killed or arrested.
Alfredo "El Mochomo" Beltran Leyva was captured by the army in 2008, his brother Arturo, or the "Chief of Chiefs," was killed in a shootout with troops a year later, and Hector was detained in the tourist city of San Miguel de Allende in 2014.
In 2009, the US Treasury Department sanctioned Laborin and 21 other individuals for their ties to the Beltran Leyva organization, freezing any assets they may have in the United States.
- 'Ruthless and highly intelligent' -
Laborin, who local media said is a former beauty queen in her home state, is not the first woman to be accused of having an important role in the macho world of drug cartels.
Enedina Arellano Felix, an accountant, has appeared in US Treasury Department charts linking her to another notorious family, the Arellano Felix criminal organization.
Another woman, Sandra Avila Beltran, alias the "Queen of the Pacific," was extradited to the United States in 2012 where she was convicted of helping her former boyfriend, a go-between for Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel and Colombian traffickers, avoid arrest.
She was deported back to Mexico in August 2013 and was freed in February 2015.
More recently, the wife of the ex-mayor of Iguala, the city in Guerrero where 43 students vanished in 2014, was detained along with her husband.
After her arrest, prosecutors linked Maria de los Angeles Pineda to the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, which is accused of killing the students after they were delivered to the gang by corrupt police officers.
"We're starting to see more and more women climbing through the ranks of many of these cartels," said Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
"There's one key factor that distinguishes them from other female traffickers: ...they're extraordinarily ruthless and highly intelligent," Vigil told AFP.
"They have to be extremely ruthless otherwise the men won't pay attention to them, and they have to be highly intelligence because they engage in the more sophisticated aspects that the cartel does such as money laundering and logistics, the corruption of public officials."