Several years after being arrested in Mexico, a top drug cartel operative has agreed to change his plea to guilty in response to U.S. drug trafficking charges. His potential prison sentence is yet to be determined.
According to CNN, U.S. authorities have said Valdez is accused of smuggling 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of cocaine across the border at Laredo, Texas, every week for much of 2005. Defense attorney Wilmer “Buddy” Parker told CNN en Español that Valdez will plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, attempt to import or export cocaine, and money laundering.
Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal is something of a legend in Mexico’s drug cartel history. The kingpin was born in Laredo and was nicknamed “La Barbie” because of his light hair and American looks reminiscent of the toy doll. Valdez is a dual citizen, and entered the drug trade in Mexico as a teenager. He initially started working for the Sinaloa cartel, but later transitioned to the affiliated family-run Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO). The BLO eventually broke away from the Sinaloa cartel, and after the death and arrest of the BLO’s top two leaders, Valdez quickly rose to a position of prominence.
His notoriety in the drug world stemmed mainly from his work as a cartel hitman, at one point leading a group of assassins working on behalf of the BLO. He said in a video-taped confession to the Mexican Attorney General’s office that he managed vey lucrative drug smuggling routes between Panama and the U.S. Until the time of his arrest, the U.S. government was offering a $2 million dollar reward for his capture.
Valdez’s arrest in 2010 was a big event for the Mexican government; not only because of the drug lord’s prominence and intelligence value, but because he was captured peacefully without a shot being fired. He spent five years in a Mexican prison, and according to The New Yorker, Valdez shopped around intelligence on other traffickers and corrupt Mexican officials in exchange for a reduced sentence. He was extradited to the U.S. only after Mexico began reeling from the embarrassment of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán’s escape from a Mexican maximum security prison.
Parker said his client did not make an agreement of cooperation with the U.S. government and the sentence he could receive is still unknown.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.