Drug Trafficking: Mexico’s Queen of the Pacific Sues Netflix Over Series

Image source, Shutterstock Image caption, Sandra Ávila Beltrán was arrested in 2007 but has been free since 2015
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By Vanessa Buschschlüter
BBC News


A Mexican woman who served time in jail for her links to drug trafficking is suing Netflix and TV channel Telemundo.

Sandra Ávila Beltrán argues that the TV series Queen of the South is based on her life, her lawyer told the Mexican newspaper Milenio.

Ávila Beltrán says her story was used without her consent and is demanding that she be paid 40% of the royalties.

As well as the TV series, there have been narco ballads written about her by Tigres del Norte and other bands.

Ávila Beltrán, 61, was infamous in Mexico even before the Netflix series was broadcast.

Known as Queen of the Pacific, her life story certainly reads like the script of a telenovela – the hugely popular Latin American soap operas with many plot twists and turns.

Her uncle is Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, one of the founders of the powerful Guadalajara drug cartel.

At 21, she married a policeman who allegedly became corrupt and did deals with the local drug lords. He was assassinated shortly after their son was born.

Her second husband, a counter-narcotics police officer, was killed by an armed commando who stormed the hospital room in which he was recovering after surgery. He, too, was thought to have had links to drug cartels.

But it was her relationship with Colombian drug lord Juan Diego Espinosa that got the widow into trouble with the law.

Espinosa and Ávila Beltrán were detained in Mexico City in 2007 but it was the footage of Ávila Beltrán’s arrest, showing her elegantly dressed and smiling defiantly into the camera, that made headlines.

Even while in prison, she still managed to make news and keep up her beauty routine, paying a doctor to come into her cell to give her Botox injections.

She was eventually extradited to the US where she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assisting Espinosa.

After a subsequent money laundering sentence was thrown out by a Mexican judge in 2015, Ávila Beltrán has been free and living in her home country.

Seven years on, she is determined to get a share of the royalties she believes are due to her.

In legal documents seen by Milenio she accuses Netflix and Telemundo, which co-produced the series, of using her image without her consent for their gain.

Her lawyer argues that the character portrayed by Kate del Castillo in the series is based on his client and that she is due 40% of the royalties.

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