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Las Flacas: The Growing Role of Women in Mexican Drug Violence

Details are continuing to emerge about a secretive group of women in Mexico, allegedly involved in drug trafficking and extreme violence: Las Flacas.

Although there is little detailed public knowledge about “las Flacas” – which translates to “The Skinnies”, or “the skinny girls” – the name has become associated with brutal violence and criminality in Mexico.

After former President Felipe Calderón intensified the Mexican war on drugs in 2007, the role of women in drug trafficking began to change. Cartels began to realise that it was easier for women to avoid detection, as they are not traditionally perceived as perpetrators of violence or large-scale trafficking in Mexico.

Rather, women were more commonly responsible for the inner administrative structure of the cartels, such as laundering money or serving as drug couriers.

“The idea being that rival syndicates and law enforcement wouldn't imagine that a waifish 'skinny girl' would be a contract killer," Andrew Chesnut, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, described in an interview with IBTimes.

Las Flacas are characterised by their young, attractive, and innocent appearances, and often wear jewellery around their necks and hands, according to Infobae, an Argentine news website. Beneath their dresses, however, Las Flacas are often concealing firearms and bulletproof vests.

They may work independently as mercenaries, but they seem to be most often directly recruited by cartel members from prisons or rural areas, and are trained as sicarias (female assassins) with the promise of great wealth.

There are numerous instances of Las Flacas committing brutal executions, including beheadings – primarily in the northern Mexican towns of Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, and Sonora.

According to Juan Carlos Ayala, a researcher at the Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa, the number of women wanting to join Las Flacas as sicarias is on the rise as – alongside wealth – it endows them with a position of power, and status.



The original Flacas

Initially, there were three women who identified as “La Flaca” (the skinny one).

The first, Verónica Mireya Moreno Carreón, an ex police officer from the Mexican state of Nuevo León, was working for infamous cartel, Los Zetas, at the time of her arrest in September 2011.

According to El Universal, authorities believe that Carreón took control of Los Zetas after the prior leader, Raúl García Rodriguez, was arrested in August of the same year.

Carreón was, allegedly, the first known female jefe (boss) of a major cartel.

The second Flaca, who used the alias Nancy Manriquez Quintanar, was also arrested in 2011 while working alongside Los Zetas. She is thought to be responsible for the murders of at least nine members of opposing cartels. 

The third and last member was Joselyn Alejandra Niño, whose dismembered body was found in 2015. Investigators believed that she worked for the Los Ciclones cartel, and was murdered by their rivals.

Despite not being extensively covered by the Mexican media, Niño’s death is perceived by authorities to have instigated the growth of the subversive Flacas trend.



The complex and secretive phenomenon of Flacas seems like it is here to stay. As Ayala described, law enforcement “don’t know what cartels [Las Flacas] move with as they can move with many [and] they are a bit mercenary”,

Indeed, the seemingly independent, unpredictable, and almost undetectable nature of Las Flacas’ activity looks set to pose a continued challenge for law enforcement across Mexico.

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