Mexico Blocks US Extradition of ‘Drug Queen’

Held for months after acquittal until court could decide

A Mexican “drug queen” acquitted of actual drug charges will not be extradited to the US, a Mexican federal court ruled today.

Sandra Ávila Beltrán was cleared in December but held until the justice system could decide whether or not she would be sent to the US over a US-bound drug shipment. Her boyfriend, Juan Diego Espinoza Ramírez, a member of the Colombian cartel Norte del Valle, was sent to Florida for trial in the same case.

Ávila was convicted of money laundering, and despite a lack of available evidence likely does have extensive involvement in the drug trade. She is also the niece of two well-known drug smugglers, one of which was extradited to the United States.

Mexico extradites some major drug suspects to the US; DEA agents have been known to kidnap Mexican citizens from within the country and take them back to the US for trial.

The US, exasperated with its low rate of convictions, is actively trying to “reform” the Mexican court system to be more like the American one as part of the $1.4 billion Mérida Initiative. Mérida funds the Mexican government so it can stop the flow of drugs into the United States, the Americas’ primary illicit-drug consumer.

Mexico has been wracked by drug violence since the Initiative began in 2006 with a heavy militarization of the country’s war on drugs. More than 41,000 people have been killed.

(photo by Alexander Lapshin)

Author: Jeremy Sapienza

Jeremy Sapienza is Senior Editor at