Mexico Drug Cartel Suspect ‘La Barbie’ on Prison Hunger Strike

October 18, 2011

The U.S.-born drug trafficking suspect known as “La Barbie” has gone on a hunger strike at the high-security prison in Mexico where he awaits extradition to the United States because authorities are denying him conjugal visits over discrepancies in his partner’s documents, authorities say.

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a 38-year-old Texas native known as “La Barbie” for his fair looks, has not eaten prison-prepared food since Oct. 2, authorities said.

He is still receiving food and cleaning products that inmates are able to buy inside the Altiplano prison in the central state of Mexico, the federal public safety ministry said in a statement released Thursday.

The statement comes after a brother of the suspected drug-trafficker told the San Antonio Express-News that Valdez stopped eating on Sept. 26 over conditions at Altiplano. Abel Valdez said his brother went on a hunger strike out of fear that prison authorities are setting him up to be killed by other inmates by spreading a rumor that he is a snitch.

Veronica Peñuñuri, spokeswoman for the federal public safety ministry, said the allegations had no merit. “La Barbie” chose to stop eating the prison’s cafeteria food after his petition for a conjugal visit with an unnamed woman was tripped up due to discrepancies in copies of her birth certificate, Peñuñuri told The Times.

The woman’s documents showed locations of birth in three places: Acapulco, in Guerrero state, Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas, and Laredo, Texas, where “La Barbie” was born.

“This is done with all inmates,” Peñuñuri said. “All that is happening is that we are determining where she was born so that she can enter.”

Valdez’s health is not in danger and he is being monitored by prison doctors, she added.

“La Barbie,” accused of running an ultra-violent enforcement arm of the Beltran-Leyva cartel, was arrested in August 2010.

He sparked intrigue among drug-war observers for sporting a sly grin when Mexican authorities presented him in a customary media event. One theory that circulated at the time suggested that Valdez, as a U.S. citizen, was expecting to become a protected witness for U.S. authorities in exchange for a lighter sentence if convicted.

He faces multiple drug trafficking charges in Texas and Louisiana.

More than a year later, Valdez has not been extradited and remains behind bars in Mexico. His brother told the San Antonio paper this week that “La Barbie” is being set up by prison authorities who are spreading rumors about Valdez to other inmates.

“They’re using tactics to keep my brother’s mouth shut because he knows too much,” Abel Valdez told the Express-News.

The suspected trafficker’s lawyers also allege that they’re not given access to their client.

“La Barbie” — a former high school football player in Laredo — also became an unexpected fashion icon after he was presented to the media wearing the clothes he was wearing when captured: a pine-green Ralph Lauren polo shirt with “London” on the front.

These shirts — or more precisely, large quantities of knock-off versions — have since become hot-selling items in the notorious Tepito market of downtown Mexico City and other dense streets where vendors hawk pirated goods, raising concern among Mexican officials about the rise of “narco-fashion”.

This article was written by Daniel Hernandez and published by World Now on October 13, 2011.

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


UPDATE: Mexican Government Grants Extradition Request for “La Barbie”

November 22, 2010

Mexican officials said Saturday they have begun the process to extradite alleged drug kingpin Edgar Valdez, known as “La Barbie” for his fair looks, to the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Valdez, a U.S. national born in Laredo, Texas, is charged in a 2002 indictment in Louisiana for alleged cocaine trafficking, and a 1998 indictment for drug trafficking in Texas.

The bilingual Valdez, 37, was arrested on August 30 in a police raid in central Mexico. Known as a ruthless killer, Mexican officials blame him for scores of murders across the country, especially in the southern tourist resort of Acapulco.

As previously reported, Valdez specifically requested extradition to the United States to face the charges. Several motives might exist for this request, such as the fear of being killed in Mexico’s dangerous prisons or perhaps the possibility of providing U.S. authorities with information regarding Mexican drug cartels in exchange for a plea agreement.

A judge ordered Valdez detained pending extradition, the office of Mexico’s attorney general said in a statement.

Valdez was moved to the maximum security prison of El Altiplano, in the central state of Mexico, until the months-long extradition process has been completed.

Valez was a key lieutenant of Arturo Beltran Leyva, who headed the cartel that bears his name and was Mexico’s third most-wanted man until he was killed in a military raid in December 2009.

As a head of Beltran Leyva’s hit squad, “La Barbie” allegedly engaged in a bloody gang war with Arturo’s brother Hector for control of the Beltran Leyva organization.

Since his arrest the Mexican government had not pressed charges, and President Felipe Calderon was forced to deny talk that Valdez negotiated his surrender.

The U.S. State Department had offered up to two million dollars for information leading to his arrest and capture, and Mexican authorities offered 2.2 million dollars.

“La Barbie” is one of six drug lords the government says it has captured or killed this year in Mexico.

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 mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Alleged Mexican Drug Kingpin ‘La Barbie’ Seeks Extradition to U.S.

September 13, 2010

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 mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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