In a widely publicized arrest, Mexican authorities have captured alleged drug lord Edgar Valdez Villarreal. The Texas-born man (nicknamed "La Barbie" for his fair complexion) is one of Mexico's most-wanted men. He is believed to have supplied the American market with cocaine and his capture is already being touted by Mexican President Felipe Calderon as a major victory in the country's drug war. Who is he and what's the importance of his capture?
- Valdez's Rap Sheet "Edgar Valdez-Villareal, 37, is a major player in the Beltran Leyva Cartel. The cartel is suspected of the growing gangland violence -- including beheadings of rivals -- in Mexico City," explains Bill Rankin at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "In December 2009, a federal grand jury in Atlanta indicted Valdez-Villareal and a five other men on drug distribution and money laundering charges. The U.S. government offered a $2 million reward for information leading to his capture."
- An American's Rise to the Top "It is unusual for an American to climb so high in the ranks of Mexican organized crime, but not unprecedented," writes Dane Schiller at the Houston Chronicle. "Texas-born Juan Garcia Abrego was captured in Mexico in the 1990s and sent to Houston, where he was convicted of drug-trafficking crimes as the head of the Gulf Cartel. He is now serving multiple life sentences."
- Valdez Was Waging a Power Grab, writes Alexandra Olson at the Associated Press: "Mexican authorities say Valdez has been battling for control of the Beltran Leyva cartel since its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in a December shootout with marines in Cuernavaca, a favorite weekend getaway south of the Mexican capital. The fight against Hector Beltran Leyva — a brother of Arturo — has made a battleground of what was once a relatively peaceful pocket of the country and brought the drug war ever closer to Mexico City. Their fight has spread westward toward the resort city of Acapulco."
- Mexican Authorities Are on a Roll, writes Sara Miller Llana at the Christian Science Monitor:
He is the third major trafficking suspect to be taken down in the past eight months. The military killed Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, a suspected leader in the Sinaloa Cartel, in a July operation in Jalisco. In December, Arturo Beltran Leyva, the founder of a group that Valdez is allegedly vying to control, was killed by Mexican marines. The capture is already being touted by Calderón's administration as a major success. “The capture of Valdez Villarreal is a high-impact blow against organized crime,” national security spokesman Alejandro Poire said in an e-mailed statement Monday night.
- Corrupt Police Remain a Huge Hurdle, writes Tim Padgett at Time: "Besides the insatiable U.S. appetite for drugs, Mexico's key problem remains — and will remain, no matter how many Black Hawk helicopters and other politically flashy hardware the U.S. sends south of the border under a $1.5 billion antinarco aid plan for Mexico — its corrupt and incompetent police. Any doubts about that fact should have been erased earlier this month when two large units of federal cops rioted in the border city of Juárez, the Mexican town worst hit by the narcocarnage, accusing each other of being in the cartels' pockets."