By JASON BUCH
San Antonio Express-News
It could be a while before the accused Texas-born drug trafficker known as "La Barbie" will face charges in the U.S.
The attorney for Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a 38-year-old U.S. citizen from Laredo, said his client was expected to come to the U.S. for his drug trafficking charges, then be returned to Mexico. But a Tuesday announcement by Mexico’s attorney general that the government there will pursue charges of organized crime, kidnapping and arms possession against Valdez means the U.S. may have to wait its turn.
Valdez is wanted by federal courts in Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. So far only Louisiana and Georgia have asked for his extradition, his attorney Kent Schaffer said.
“The last I heard, they thought he could be brought back here sometime by early fall,” Schaffer said. “If they’re intending to try him there, that could be way down the road. That could take years.”
After his August 2010 arrest, the Mexican government said Valdez has dual citizenship because his mother was born there and required the U.S. to request his extradition.
That contrasts with accused Zeta hit man Wencesloa Tovar, a U.S. citizen who was arrested while living with his parents in Nuevo Laredo last month and deported to the U.S. the same day.
Schaffer said he thinks the Mexican government wants to hold onto Valdez, a prize catch in President Felipe Calderón’s war against the narcos.
“At the time that Edgar was arrested, this was a huge coup for the president,” Schaffer said. “He was just getting beaten by all sides, because violence was way up, the corruption was way up, soldiers and police were feuding ... and then Edgar gets captured and he becomes a trophy for that administration.”
U.S. and Mexican authorities have alleged that Valdez was a chief lieutenant of Arturo Beltrán Leyva, once a capo in the powerful Sinaloa Cartel. Beltrán Leyva split with Sinaloa in 2008.
Without the cartel’s backing, the Beltrán Leyva organization fell on hard times. Several of Beltrán Leyva’s brothers were captured and the capo himself was killed by Mexican marines in December 2009. That caused a fight for control of the organization, with Valdez heading one of the factions.
After Valdez’s arrest, the Mexican government has taken down a series of his successors. The most recent, Moisés “El Koreano” Montero Álvarez, was arrested Monday in Acapulco, Valdez’s former headquarters.
Additional links (Spanish)
Nuevo auto de formal prisión a “La Barbie”
La otra historia de ''La Barbie''