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Mexican beauty queen arrested in gun-filled truck

Reigning Mexican beauty queen, Miss Sinaloa 2008 Laura Zuniga from the drug-plagued state of Sinaloa, was arrested on Monday with suspected gang members in a truck filled guns and ammunition. Pics: Laura Zuniga

world Updated: Dec 24, 2008 16:41 IST

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 said. Pics: Laura Zuniga

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.

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 US currency, Solorio said on Tuesday.

Zuniga told police that she was planning on travelling 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.

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."This young woman (Zuniga) apparently has a romantic relationship with this gentleman (Urquiza)," Jalisco security chief Luis Carlos Najera told reporters.

Zuniga was crowned "Miss Sinaloa" in July and also won the Queen of Hispanic America contest in November in Bolivia.

At the time of the arrests, authorities said they found two AR-15 rifles, three pistols, 633 cartridges, 16 cellphones and about 100,000 dollars in the vehicles.

The seven detained "were just coming to town. They came from different places and the young woman said that the money was for making purchases in Bolivia and Colombia," said Jalisco public security director Alejandro Solorio.

The arrest took place following an anonymous complaint in Zapopan, in the suburbs of Guadalajara, Jalisco.

Zuniga is originally from Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, birthplace of one of Mexico's most powerful cartels.

Ricardo Garcia Urquiza was considered the head of the Juarez cartel and identified as responsible for between 15 and 20 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States, for annual profits of 660 million dollars.

Nuestra Belleza Mexico ("Our Mexican Beauty"), which runs the country's biggest beauty pageant, distanced itself from "any unlawful activity," in a press statement.

First Published: Dec 24, 2008 13:09 IST