GUADALAJARA, Mexico - A reigning Mexican beauty queen from the drug-plagued state of Sinaloa was arrested with suspected gang members in a truck filled with guns and ammunition, police said yesterday.
Laura Zuniga, Miss Sinaloa 2008, 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 the Jalisco state police director, Francisco Alejandro Solorio.
Zuniga was riding in one of two trucks, where soldiers found a large stash of weapons, including two AR-15 assault rifles, .38 specials, 9mm handguns, nine magazines, 633 cartridges and $53,300 in U.S. currency, Solorio said.
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 against competitors from across Latin America.
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.
The Pacific coast state of Sinaloa is home to the powerful cartel of the same name.
Lupita Jones, the national director of Nuestra Belleza Mexico, released a statement distancing the organization from Zuniga. Jones also said that Nuestra Belleza knew nothing about "any illicit activity in which she could be involved."
The organization also said that it will await the results of the investigation before making any decision about whether to strip Zuniga of her crown. *