MEXICO CITY — Mexican police Monday captured a Texas-born accused drug kingpin wanted by the United States and known for his unusual nickname — La Barbie.
Edgar Valdez Villarreal, 37, was captured in the state of Mexico adjacent to the capital, the Foro and Milenio television networks reported.
More than 28,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon
came to office in late 2006 and deployed the armed forces to battle
drug cartels. Supporters of Valdez Villarreal are thought to have
beheaded dozens of people in recent months.
Calderon confirmed the arrest on Twitter: “Federal police trapped ‘La Barbie,’ one of the most wanted criminals in Mexico and abroad. Operations are continuing against the group.”
Calderon didn’t say where the arrest took place.
The Justice Department maintained a $2 million bounty on Valdez Villarreal, who earned his nickname because a high school football coach in Laredo, Texas, thought his blue eyes and light hair made him look like Ken, the companion to the Barbie doll.
A federal indictment unsealed in Atlanta in June charged that Valdez Villarreal, a U.S. citizen, imported tons of cocaine by tractor-trailer across the border at Laredo, Texas, and into the eastern U.S. between 2004 and 2006.
Authorities released a photo of Valdez Villarreal
during his capture. In it, he sported a light beard and tightly cropped
hair, and he wore a green polo shirt.
“This is an extraordinary achievement,” Felipe Gonzalez, the head of Mexico’s Senate
commission on public security, told Foro TV. “There was an air around
this guy that he was untouchable, that he would never be caught.”
The arrest of Valdez Villarreal came barely a month after law enforcement agents in Guadalajara shot and killed Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, a major leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, perhaps the most powerful in Mexico.
Valdez Villarreal belonged to the Sinaloa Cartel before one of its chiefs, Arturo Beltran Leyva, broke away two years ago and established his own drug organization. Beltran Leyva was killed in a shootout with Mexican marines in December, and Valdez Villareal sought to take over the group.
Over the weekend, further evidence emerged of the brutal struggle between La Barbie’s gang and followers of Hector Beltran Leyva, the brother of the slain drug chieftain, for control of the criminal organization.
Henchmen strung up the decapitated bodies of four men from a bridge Sunday in Cuernavaca, a weekend getaway near Mexico City. Hector Beltran Leyva’s faction left a sign left with the bodies.
“This is what will happen to all those who support the traitor Edgar Valdez Villarreal,” the sign said.
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