Mexican police said they captured one of the country’s most wanted criminals, a Texas-born drug trafficker known as “La Barbie” for his blonde hair and fair complexion.
Edgar Valdez Villareal, a leader of the Beltran Leyva Cartel, was captured today after a yearlong investigation, the Attorney General’s Office said in an e-mailed statement. U.S. authorities had offered a $2 million reward for his arrest.
Valdez Villareal became a top member of the drug gang after the Mexican Navy killed founder Arturo Beltran Leyva in December. His organization has been battling the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas for control of smuggling routes the traffickers use to send cocaine, marijuana and heroin to the U.S.
“He was a very violent kingpin, he was a fearsome criminal,” said Jorge Chabat, a political science professor who specializes in security issues at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City. “The fact that he was arrested alive makes this a success in all aspects.”
La Barbie took a leading role in drug trafficking in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, according to information reported by Foro TV. The report said Valdez Villareal is bilingual and is known for his luxury cars and designer clothes.
Valdez Villareal was indicted by a federal grand jury in June for allegedly importing thousands of kilograms of cocaine to the eastern U.S. from 2004 to 2006. The indictment said he was born in Laredo, Texas and is 36 years old.
“The question now it’s if he’s going to be extradited,” Chabat said. “He’s a hot potato; the most reasonable response will be to extradite him,” he said.
Mexico’s drug cartels generate as much as $30 billion a year selling marijuana, cocaine and heroin to users in the U.S., according to data from the U.S. State Department. Violence related to trafficking has killed more than 28,000 since Calderon came to office in December 2006, mostly people involved in the drug trade or officials who are fighting them.
In July, Mexican military personnel killed Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, a top ally of billionaire Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in the Mexican state of Jalisco.