<!--:es-->U.S. asks Mexico to extradite jailed drug “queen”<!--:-->

U.S. asks Mexico to extradite jailed drug “queen”

MEXICO CITY – The United States has requested that Mexico extradite Sandra Avila, known as the “Queen of the Pacific,” one of its most notorious and glamorous drug smugglers, Mexican officials said on Tuesday.

Avila, 45, is accused of helping build up the Sinaloa cartel on Mexico’s Pacific Coast in the 1990s using her friendships with the gang’s leaders including Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, Mexico’s most wanted man.

She was caught in September near her house in the Mexican capital, after a U.S. and Mexican authorities called for her arrest on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

“We received it last week,” a Mexican government spokesman said of the extradition request.

Avila won her nickname for helping to develop smuggling routes up Mexico’s Pacific Coast into California, as well as through the Arizona desert.

She was thought to run her operations out Guadalajara in central Mexico, coordinating shipments of Colombian cocaine with the help of her Colombian drug boss boyfriend, Juan Diego “The Tiger” Espinosa.

Espinosa, who is considered a key link between Colombian and Mexican smugglers, was also captured by Mexican officials and is wanted in the United States.

President Felipe Calderon has vowed to crack down on drug gangs, sending 25,000 troops to areas of the country overrun by smugglers and capturing high-profile traffickers like Avila.

Military operations have damaged the cartels and sent the street price of cocaine soaring, U.S. and Mexican officials say. Almost 2,300 people have died so far this year in turf wars mainly between the Gulf Cartel and an alliance of traffickers from Sinaloa state.

Avila is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo known as the godfather of the Mexican drug trade.

In a TV interview with police just after her arrest, the attractive Avila maintained she was just a housewife who earned money selling clothes and renting property.