Edgar Valdez Villareal, a U.S.-born alleged drug lord who was captured in Mexico last week, wants to return to his roots in Texas to face trial rather than stay in a Mexican jail, his lawyer said.
Valdez, called “La Barbie” in Mexico for his green eyes and sandy colored hair, has a reputation for beheading opponents in Mexico’s violent drug wars. He fears that he will get killed in a Mexican prison, according to Kent Schaffer, his Houston-based lawyer.
Schaffer asked U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual to appeal to the Mexican government to deport Valdez to the U.S., where he faces charges of drug trafficking.
Valdez denies all charges against him, and denies that he was responsible for any beheadings.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said it deferred to the Mexican government on the deportation issue. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department wouldn’t comment specifically on the request.
Valdez is being held for a 40-day period while Mexican police investigate charges against him. Mexican officials say they will decide later on whether he will face charges in Mexico or whether he will be deported to the U.S., where he faces charges of trafficking tons of cocaine in Georgia, Texas and Louisiana.
A spokeswoman for the office of Mexico’s attorney general said Valdez is being held at federal police headquarters, where he is safe.
The deportation request is an unusual one in the history of Latin American drug trafficking. In the 1980s, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar led a bombing campaign against the government there partly to avoid being sent to the U.S. More recently, scores of Mexican drug traffickers have been forcibly extradited to the U.S.
Valdez, 37 years old, is the first major suspected Mexican drug lord captured alive since his former boss, Arturo Beltran Leyva, known as the “Boss of Bosses,” was killed in a gunbattle with Mexican marines in December. Ignacio Coronel, a leading figure in the Sinaloa Cartel, died in a gunfight with Mexican soldiers in July.
Since Valdez has worked with most of Mexico’s top drug barons, including the country’s most powerful trafficker, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, he could provide officials with valuable intelligence, analysts say.
Born and raised in the border city of Laredo, Texas, Valdez was a high-school football standout who went on to become one of Mexico’s most-wanted criminals.
Valdez’s deportation would raise the possibility that the alleged drug lord could cut a deal for a reduced sentence with U.S. authorities in exchange for information.
Speed is of the essence, as the Mexican prison system is notoriously dangerous and Valdez has a lot of enemies.
Two weeks ago, José Luis Carrizales, who like Valdez was an alleged enforcer for the Sinaloa cartel, was killed just hours after being transferred to the penitentiary in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, which is largely controlled by a rival drug gang known as the Zetas.
Controversy has swirled around Valdez since his arrest last week. He startled many Mexicans by smiling during his presentation to reporters in Mexico’s version of the “perp walk.” Many newspaper and TV commentators speculated that the smile suggested Valdez hadn’t been captured, as the government says, but voluntarily surrendered in exchange for a lighter sentence. Conflicting versions of Valdez’s capture have fed the controversy. Mexican media, basing their accounts on a police report, said Valdez was arrested after federal police pulled over his three-car convoy for speeding. According to this account, the police didn’t know who they had stopped until Valdez got out, identified himself and surrendered.
The official government version, sketchy on details, said Valdez was captured after his rural estate was surrounded by federal police in the culmination of a yearlong search.
Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.
The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at one of the offices listed above.