Mexico Miss World pageant director shot dead in targeted attack

Drug cartel link possible in death of director of pageant in Mexico, who was killed just after crowning Miss Sinaloa winner in violence-plagued region

The director of the Miss World beauty pageant in Mexico has been shot dead in a targeted attack just hours after crowning the provincial winner for the violence-plagued state of Sinaloa.

Hugo Rubn Castellanos Jimnez, 39, was killed in the early hours of Sunday morning, shortly after he and a friend were abducted by several masked gunmen who had installed a road block near the bar where they had been celebrating with organisers from the Sinaloa pageant.

Castellanos, a former model and owner of a well-known modelling agency, was found shot dead a few hours later in the back of the carjacked Cherokee jeep. His friend, identified by local media as a US citizen, was freed unharmed.

Hugo Rubn Castellanos Jimnez crowning Miss Mexico. Photograph: Miss World Mexico/Facebook

Castellanos was the intended target of the planned attack, according to authorities, who have discarded robbery as a motive after a substantial quantity of cash was recovered at the scene. But all other lines of inquiry remain open including possible links to the beauty pageant according to the Sinaloas chief prosecutor.

The attack took place in the state capital, Culiacan, just hours after Castellanos awarded Melissa Carolina Lizrraga the Miss Sinaloa crown.

Beauty pageants in Mexico have long been connected to the criminal underworld. Sinaloa birthplace of some of Mexicos most infamous drug traffickers, including Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn has a particularly inglorious history with beauty contests.

In 2012, 20-year-old beauty queen Maria Susana Flores Gamez was found shot dead on the side of a road in Sinaloa after a car chase ended in shootout between soldiers and armed gunmen. It was alleged that Flores, who was the reigning Miss Woman Sinaloa at the time, was the girlfriend of a cartel leader.

In 2007, Guzmn, leader of the notorious Sinaloa cartel, married Emma Coronel, winner of a small-town pageant in the Sinaloan Mountains, on her 18th birthday.

The relationship between the drugs trade and Mexicos beauty contests was dramatized in a critically acclaimed 2011 Mexican film, Miss Bala, which told the story of a young woman competing for Miss Baja California who becomes an unwilling accomplice in a drug-running ring and is eventually arrested.

Violence has soared in the north-west state of Sinaloa since Guzmn was recaptured in January, six months after his audacious escape from a high security prison through a tunnel.

The escalation in violence has been attributed to a turf war as rival cartels try to wrest control of the region from the Sinaloa cartel.

In June, dozens of heavily armed men stormed Guzmans hometown, La Tuna, and looted the house of his 86-year-old mother, sparking speculation that his authority was plummeting.

So far there is no evidence that Castellanoss murder was linked to organised crime.

He moved to Mexicos second-biggest city, Guadalajara, from his hometown of Tampico, Tamaulipas, as a teenager to pursue a modelling career. He first took charge of a state beauty contest, Miss Jalisco, before moving on coordinate Miss Mexico. In 2011, he set up the successful agency Glamour Models.

In May, he became director of Miss World in Mexico.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/09/miss-world-beauty-pageant-director-killed-mexico-sinaloa-cartel

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