Netflix Won’t Pay Narco Queen a ‘Single Cent’ for Show Based on Her Life

Former trafficker Sandra Ávila Beltrán, known as “The Queen of the Pacific,” is trying to claim a share of the profits.
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Kate Del Castillo plays the character based on the life of Sandra Ávila Beltrán in the Netflix show "Queen of the South." Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Netflix and Spanish TV company Telemundo will not pay “a single cent” to a former Mexican narco queen for allegedly using her image to promote a series based on her life. 

Sandra Ávila Beltrán, known as “The Queen Of The Pacific,” is hoping to claim a cut of the profits made by the two companies for “The Queen Of The South” series, which is based on her criminal career. 

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After she made her intentions public this week, both companies hit back against Ávila’s legal request and said they will not be giving any money to her because her story is of public interest.

“There is a public interest in talking about a person accused of a crime that has brought innumerable violence and victims to this country,” both companies answered through Mexico’s Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), Mexican news outlet Milenio reported today. 

Ávila’s attorney, Israel Razo, alleged that the companies should pay up to 40 percent of all the revenues generated by the series during its 11 years of airing, for using Ávila’s image without consent and for their own benefit. 

“Both companies acted wrongfully with the intention of harming my image and making money out of it,” Ávila allegedly said in a letter submitted to Mexico’s Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI). 

In April 2019, Telemundo used news footage from her arrest to promote the series’ second season, which is now being shown on Netflix. 

Neither Netflix nor Telemundo shared the figures for the revenue generated by the series. 

Ávila will now have to follow through on her sue and Mexico’s Supreme Court will decide if the companies will have to pay the revenues to Ávila.

If Ávila does get given a share of the cash profits, it would mark the first time a drug trafficker benefits from the use of their image on screen. Such a move would open the door to others to follow, including infamous Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who is the focus of a number of series on Netflix. 

“La Reina Del Sur” (the name of the series in Spanish) features Mexican top Actress Kate Del Castillo playing Ávila Beltrán, which is based on a novel by Arturo Pérez Reverte. Reverte has made it clear that his novel is based on Ávila Beltrán, although it includes fictionalized passages. 

Ávila Beltrán was allegedly the connection between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia cocaine producers. She was arrested in September 2007 by Mexican authorities on charges of drug trafficking, illegal arms possession, and money laundering. In 2012, she was extradited to face charges in the U.S. after which she was released back to Mexico, where she served more jail time.