Laura Zuniga, Mexican Beauty Queen, Dating Powerful Drug Trafficker, Beauty quee

Laura Zuniga, the 23-year-old Mexican beauty queen arrested in the company of heavily armed, suspected drug traffickers, has been stripped of her crown in the Hispanoamerican Queen pageant, contest organizers said.

 

Zuniga and seven men were detained at a military checkpoint in central Mexico on December 21.

 

Zuniga, 23, was picked up late on Monday at a military checkpoint in the western Mexican state of Jalisco while traveling with seven armed men in two vehicles carrying $100,000 in cash. Authorities said they found two AR-15 rifles, three pistols, 633 cartridges and 16 mobile phones in the vehicles.

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Zuniga was ordered jailed on December 26 for a further 40 days while investigators probe possible ties to violent smuggling gangs.

 

A reigning Mexican beauty queen from the drug-plagued state of Sinaloa was arrested with suspected gang members in a truck filled guns and ammunition, police say.

 

Miss Sinaloa 2008 Laura Zuniga stared at the ground, with her flowing dark hair concealing her face, as she stood squeezed between seven alleged gunmen lined up before journalists. Soldiers wearing ski masks guarded the 23-year-old model and the suspects.

 

Zuniga was arrested shortly before midnight on Monday at a military checkpoint in Zapopan, just outside the colonial city of Guadalajara, said Jalisco state police director, Francisco Alejandro Solorio.

 

State police identified one of the men caught with her as the brother of an alleged drug trafficker from Ciudad Juarez, a city on the U.S. border, and said the man appeared to have been her boyfriend.

 

Zuniga told police that she was planning on traveling to Bolivia and Colombia with the men to go shopping, Solorio said.

 

When the former preschool teacher won Miss Sinaloa in July she gave an impassioned speech about how society should value women more, especially mothers. In October, she won the Hispanoamerican Queen beauty contest in October against competitors from across Latin America.

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She placed third in the Nuestra Belleza Mexico pageant in Monterrey in September. That pageant sends its winner to the Miss Universe contest. For placing third, she was expected to represent Mexico in the 2009 Miss International contest.

 

Zuniga is from the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, the home of the powerful cartel of the same name. It was not immediately known whether Zuniga and the men were being investigated for drug ties.

 

Lupita Jones, the national director of Nuestra Belleza Mexico, released a statement distancing the organization from Zuniga. Jones also said Nuestra Belleza knew nothing about "any illicit activity in which she could be involved."

 

The organization also says it will await the results of the investigation before making any decision about whether to strip Zuniga of her crown.

 

"Since 1994, Nuestra Belleza has been a serious, honest and transparent organization dedicated exclusively to preparing Mexican women to successfully represent our country en various contests and whose object is to show the beauty, value and intelligence of each one of them," Jones said.

 

Tatiana Limpias of Gloria promotions, which organizes the Hispanoamerican contest in Bolivia, told The Associated Press that their lawyers were also looking into the matter before making a decision about her crown.

 

About 90 percent of the cocaine entering the United States passes through Mexico, earning its powerful and vicious cartels billions of dollars a year and allowing them to corrupt the segments of society ranging from the police and army to musical groups.

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Laura Zuniga, the Mexican beauty queen jailed after she was picked up with an alleged drug cartel leader and heavily armed men, has been stripped of one of her titles, Bolivian organizers said over the weekend.

 

Zuniga lost her title as Queen of Hispanic America, said Promociones Gloria, the Bolivian group that organizes the event said.

 

Vivian Noronha Cia of Brazil now takes the tiara "as consequence of the events known to the public in which Miss Laura Zuniga... was involved," Promociones Gloria said in a brief statement on Saturday.

 

Zuniga "failed to follow the rules of the contest, which state that the winner must display correct behavior, stay away from scandals and bad habits, and be a good example to society," Tatiana Limpias de Tarabillo, who heads Promociones Gloria, told the Bolivian daily El Deber.

 

A judge on Friday ordered "the cautionary measure" of 40 days detention for Zuniga and the men "for probably committing crimes" relating to drug trafficking and transporting weapons, the office of Mexico's attorney general said.

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Zuniga was picked up along with Angel Orlando Garcia Urquizar, "presumed to be one of the leaders of the Juarez Cartel," the statement read. Police earlier identified Zuniga as Garcia Urquizar's girlfriend. Zuniga is originally from Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, birthplace of one of Mexico's most powerful cartels.

 

There has been no word on whether Zuniga will keep her title as "Miss Sinaloa," which she won in July.

 

Runner-up Vivian Noronha of Brazil will now receive the crown.



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