Maria Susan Flores Gamez: Beauty and the Beasts By: Will Dabbs

This was somebody’s little girl. Then she fell in with some very bad people.

Maria Susan Flores Gamez was born in 1992 and raised in Guamuchil, Mexico. An attractive, doe-eyed lass, Maria won the 2012 Woman of Sinaloa beauty pageant. At that time Flores Gamez was also taking media classes at her local university. By 2009 she had been modeling professionally and participating in beauty pageants for three years.

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Beauty pageants are big business around the world.

In June of 2012 Maria competed in the Our Beauty Sinaloa pageant but did not place. The Our Beauty Sinaloa winner goes on to compete in the Miss Mexico pageant. From there, Miss Mexico represents the country at the Miss Universe competition. 

It does surprise me that in the 21st century we still parade half-naked women around and claim it is “empowering.”

While all that is obviously terribly important to the participants, such stuff has never done much for me. It always struck me as a bit exploitative. I like pretty girls more than most, but in the Information Age it surprises me that the woke warriors of the world will tolerate women prancing about mostly naked being overtly judged on the strength of their fleshly attributes. In the case of Maria Susan Flores Gamez, however, vapid beauty pageants were the least of her worries. Along the way Maria met some seriously sketchy guys.

Drug cartels have the resources to field respectable private armies.

The Sinaloa state in northern Mexico is home to one of the world’s most powerful drug cartels. Also known as the Guzman-Loera Organization, the Pacific Cartel, the Federation, or the Blood Alliance, the Sinaloa Cartel was founded in 1987 and maintains a presence in 22 of the 31 Mexican states. The mass of illegal drugs smuggled into the United States by the Sinaloa Cartel is measured in tons. This means money, lots and lots of money.

The Scope

This was the largest cash seizure in history. In 2005 Mexican officials seized $205 million from the home of a drug lord who imported precursor chemicals to manufacture crystal meth. The seized cash weighed some 4,500 pounds.

It’s really tough for normal folks to appreciate how massive this illicit enterprise actually is. To paraphrase JK Simmons in the superb action flick The Accountant, these guys count their money using truck scales. The Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for roughly a quarter of the drugs that are smuggled into the United States from Mexico. Conservatively estimated, their annual income hovers around $3 billion.

This guy was a serious piece of work.

The Sinaloa Cartel was helmed for years by the infamous Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. He was, for a time, on the Forbes list of billionaires. These drug lords are some of the most powerful men on earth. There is literally nothing they cannot buy. However, the one thing they all genuinely fear is the American supermax prison.

El Chapo will never breathe free air again. I hope it was worth it, buddy.

After several arrests and high-profile escapes from Mexican custody, El Chapo was extradited to the United States. In November of 2019 his trial began on charges ranging from weapons possession to homicide. In July of 2019 he was convicted of all 17 counts lodged against him. El Chapo was sentenced to life in prison plus another 30 years. He was also ordered to forfeit some $12.6 billion. As of this writing, El Chapo is tucked away in ADX Florence, the most secure supermax facility in the country. So long as his cellmate doesn’t beat him to death first, El Chapo will undoubtedly breathe his last while incarcerated there. 

This handsome lad is pretty typical of the genre. Something tells me that pretty girls are hanging around with guys like this for something other than their killer abs.

Command of the Sinaloa Cartel has passed through several individuals, but it yet remains a major player in the Mexican drug trade. While drugs, guns, and opulence are part and parcel of this incredibly dangerous profession, another common thread is beautiful women. Guzman had at least four wives and at least eleven children. It was her innate beauty that earned Maria Susan Flores Gamez a position with the Sinaloan gangsters.

The Background

The Mexican authorities are engaged in a legit shooting war with the drug cartels.

Certain parts of northern Mexico are legitimate battlefields. Drug gangs with essentially unlimited funding field armies of paid sicarios armed with the finest military hardware money can buy. That means belt-fed machineguns, antitank weapons, .50-caliber sniper rigs, and assault rifles and submachine guns aplenty.

Certain parts of Mexico are among the most dangerous places on earth.

35,000 Mexicans were murdered in 2019. Between 2000 and 2013, 215,000 people were killed there. That puts the annual murder rate at around 25 per 100,000 people. That means that one in every 4,000 Mexicans is murdered every annum. To put that in perspective, we lost 58,000 American troops in ten years of active combat in Vietnam.

If private ownership of guns is essentially outlawed in Mexico then how could these criminals be getting all these weapons? Note the 40mm M433 HEDP rounds. They didn’t pick those puppies up at a Phoenix gun show.

Mexico actually has some profoundly restrictive gun control laws. I’m told there is only one commercial gun shop in the country, and that is run by the government. Legally obtaining the means to defend oneself in modern-day Mexico is essentially unobtainable for the typical Mexican. How then might we explain the fact that guns are so prevalent and human life so cheap in a place with such restrictive gun control legislation? It seems that Mexican criminals choose not to obey the law. That alongside the fact that the sun reliably comes up in the east battle for the title of Most Obvious Thing in the Universe. 

The Hit

This attractive young lady found herself in the absolute wrong place at the absolute wrong time.

On this fateful day, Maria was a passenger in one of six vehicles making up a convoy of Sinaloa Cartel operators. Mexican Army soldiers got wind of the convoy and moved in. There resulted an hours-long running gun battle.

This was supposedly the area of the safe house near where the firefight occurred.

Mexican troops eventually isolated the cartel shooters outside a safe house in Mocorito. Maria emerged from the SUV wielding an AK rifle and followed by drug cartel shooters. After a vigorous exchange of fire, the soldiers ultimately prevailed. Lamentably, that is not always the case. In the aftermath of the firefight Maria’s bullet-riddled body was found outside one of the vehicles alongside her Kalashnikov. 

The Guns

How the drug cartels source their weapons is indeed a fascinating study.

We have reviewed the Kalashnikov rifle in this venue before. This time I thought we might focus on the unique milieu of weapons in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. These guns come from a variety of sources.

I get it. We Americans have a lot of guns, way more than we could ever use. However, that doesn’t mean that the Mexican drug cartels need us for armaments. We’re just fairly convenient.

Much hay has obviously been made over guns procured on the US civilian market and smuggled south into Mexico for use by the cartels. This is not an unreasonable concern. We Americans currently possess some 440 million firearms. That’s twenty times as many guns as there are soldiers in all the world’s combined armies. Were I looking to equip a private army, here’s where I’d start. However, to fixate on American guns smuggled south is to lose all-important context.

I never saw the appeal in gold-plated, diamond-encrusted, meticulously-engraved firearms. I’d take a stock HK VP9 or Glock 17 any day.

Mexican drug cartels have as much money as some small nation states. They have a literal global reach in sourcing illicit narcotics for sale in the US. They have access to any weapons in the world. Many parts of the planet are awash in military hardware provided by the superpowers during decades of open proxy warfare. It would be tough to get excited about a no-frills Anderson Arms semiautomatic AR15 when El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua, or a dozen different African nations stand by to supply as much legit military-grade ordnance as you can move.

Val Kilmer unlimbering his Colt Model 733 carbine in the Michael Mann movie Heat was indeed epic. However, Heat was technically just a movie. It’s different in the real world.

While weapons sourced in the US are obviously semiautomatic, that really doesn’t make any difference. Anybody with a rudimentary milling machine or, in some cases, a 3D printer can convert most common semiautomatic weapons to full auto. Regardless, the addition of a happy switch to your typical AR or AK rifle is little more than a liability. Real soldiers use fully automatic fire from handheld small arms rarely if ever. The calculus changes with belt-fed support guns, but long bursts of full auto fire launched from assault rifles are found most commonly in the hands of movie stars and amateurs.

This young stud was murdered with a rifle that the BATF knowingly allowed to be delivered to Mexican drug cartels. Those in power naturally never held themselves accountable, but this was one of the most egregious examples of rancid judgment in American history.

No discussion of this sort would be complete without mention of the Obama-era Operation Fast and Furious. Orchestrated out of the Tucson and Phoenix BATF offices and running from 2006 through 2011, Fast and Furious encouraged licensed American gun dealers to sell weapons to straw buyers with the full understanding that these guns would end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Fast and Furious guns were ultimately recovered from dozens of crime scenes. One Fast and Furious AK was used to murder US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in 2010. Mexican officials tied Fast and Furious weapons to at least 150 deaths. Of the 2,000 or so weapons the Obama administration fed to the cartels, only 710 had been recovered by 2012.

One gun recovered after the Bataclan attack in Paris in 2015 was rumored to have been traced back to the BATF’s insane Fast and Furious program. I hate to descend into sophomoric anthropomorphism, but I think Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder looks like a gigantic ferret.

Fast and Furious was obviously intended to provide media fodder to establish a connection between the American civilian gun industry and Mexican drug cartels. Equipped with such inflammatory information Democrats undoubtedly hoped to be able to push through fresh new gun control initiatives. Amidst a pantheon of breathtakingly stupid things the US government has done through the years, Fast and Furious is arguably the stupidest.

The Rest of the Story

In a place beset with poverty and despair, pretty girls can see the cartels as a ticket to someplace better. Reality in that regard can be a bitter pill.

Maria Gamez was not the first Mexican beauty queen to get caught up in cartel violence. However, she was the first to which I could find reference who was killed in action. Powerful criminals always seem to surround themselves with pretty girls. It has become a trope in movies.

After…I suppose the message here is that you should choose your friends carefully, particularly in Mexico.

The former Miss Sinaloa Laura Zuniga lost her 2008 crown from the Hispanoamerican Queen pageant after being arrested for drug and weapons violations. Zuniga was later released without being charged. Another model and prominent pageant participant was arrested in 2011 alongside a known drug runner and murder suspect, but she also was released.

To the soulless thugs of the drug cartels, girls like Maria Susan Flores Gamez are just disposable objects.

The allure of easy money and easier power reliably brings out the worst in people. Javier Valdez, the author of Miss Narco, a book about the ties between beauty pageants and the Mexican drug cartels, said, “For a lot of these young women, it is easy to get involved with organized crime, in a country that doesn’t offer many opportunities for young people. They are disposable objects, the lowest link in the chain of criminal organizations, the young men recruited as gunmen and the pretty young women who are tossed away in two or three years, or are turned into police or killed.”