A recent capture by Colombian authorities highlights the importance of "super fixers" in modern drug trafficking and the perceived novelty of women in the drug trade.
Authorities arrested Magaly Chavez Ante, alias "La Faraona," who allegedly coordinated boat shipments of cocaine moving from Ecuador and Colombia's Pacific coast to the United States, local media reported.
Chavez lived in Ecuador but was captured in Colombia's third-largest city, Cali. She reportedly traveled to Colombia to meet with drug trafficking associates who had been threatened by Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, Chavez and a group of Colombian operatives had been tasked with supplying the Mexican group with 500 kilos of cocaine a week. However, the Sinaloans began threatening their Colombian partners, after multiple drug shipments were confiscated on routes Chavez had assured were safe.
The 45-year-old Chavez reportedly began her criminal career in her native city of Buenaventura, on Colombia's Pacific coast. She coordinated drug shipments for Colombia drug cartel the Rastrojos before moving to Haiti in 1998, to coordinate cocaine smuggling through the Caribbean. Following Haiti's 2010 earthquake, Chavez settled in Ecuador under a fake identity, where she allegedly resumed facilitating drug shipments moved via Pacific routes.
Her alias -- "The Pharaoh" in English -- came from her ability to form partnerships with multiple criminal groups simultaneously, including sometimes enemies the Rastrojos and the Urabeños, Colombian police were quoted as saying.
The United States has an open extradition request for Chavez.
InSight Crime Analysis
Chavez appears to have made a career out of being the perfect intermediary. After the downfall of numerous cocaine empires in Colombia and other nations, drug traffickers have largely reorganized into smaller groups that specialized in a single aspect of the trade. This has created a niche for people like Chavez who can coordinate between these groups, a role that crime analyst Doug Farah has dubbed "super fixers."
With numerous cartel heads throughout Latin America dead or behind bars, governments in the region may find targeting these "super fixers" a more effective strategy than the so-called "Kingpin" approach.
Chavez's arrest also drew significant media attention in Colombia, part of which is due to public fascination with female criminals in what is seen as a male-dominated industry. As Chavez' case develops, it may yet see the same sensationalism generated by similar figures like Mexico's "Narco-mom," or Colombia's "Cocaine Queen." However, not only are there plenty of cases of women who have played important roles in Latin America's transnational drug trade, but women also carry out key tasks for the region's street gangs as well.
Caracol Video Report on La Faraona