Mexican police apprehended a suspected Texas-born drug trafficker, known as “La Barbie” for his blond hair and fair complexion, who U.S. authorities say has smuggled thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the U.S.
Edgar Valdez Villareal, an alleged leader of the Beltran Leyva Cartel, was captured yesterday in central Mexico after a yearlong investigation, the Attorney General’s Office said. 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, analysts such as Jorge Chabat said. 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 Chabat, a political science professor and expert 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 is suspected of taking a leading role in drug trafficking in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, according to information reported by Foro TV. The report said Valdez is bilingual and enjoys luxury cars and designer clothes.
Jaime Lopez-Aranda, a researcher at Mexico City’s Center for Research for Development, said Valdez directed teams of hitmen first for the Sinaloa Cartel, and then for the Beltran Leyva Cartel after he joined that group. He fought against rival traffickers for narcotics shipping routes in the west-central states of Guerrero, Morelos and Michoacan, he said.
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.
President Felipe Calderon referred to Valdez Villareal as “one of the most-sought-after criminals in Mexico and abroad” in statements published on Twitter yesterday.
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. Related violence has killed more than 28,000 since Calderon came to office in December 2006, mostly people involved in the drug trade or officials fighting against 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.