An American drug lord who operated in Mexico reportedly made a deal with US authorities to secure a shorter sentence, an anticipated outcome that is sure to add to the mounting evidence that extradited capos are providing on Mexico's underworld.
Edgar Valdez Villareal, a former leader of Mexico's Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO), and four of his accomplices agreed to supply US authorities with information on his and rival drug cartels in exchange for a reduced prison sentence, reported El Universal.
Known as "La Barbie," a nickname his high school football coach in Texas reportedly gave him for his blond hair and fair skin, Valdez Villareal was arrested by Mexican authorities in August 2010. He was extradited to the United States in September 2015 after spending the intervening years in maximum security prison. La Barbie initially pleaded innocent to US drug trafficking charges, but switched his plea to guilty in January 2016.
US prosecutors allege La Barbie was responsible for sending multiple tons of cocaine into the eastern United States while working for the BLO.
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It has long been suspected that La Barbie would be willing to cut a deal with US authorities. "He might sing like a canary," one expert on Mexican drug cartels told the Los Angeles Times at the time of his arrest. "They flipped him," Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope told Vice News after La Barbie pleaded guilty in January.
Indeed, according to El Universal, La Barbie's lawyer was actually pushing to have him extradited to the United States, something which many drug lords fight tooth and nail to avoid. And shortly after his arrest, rumors began swirling that La Barbie had negotiated his surrender with Mexican and potentially even US authorities.
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Given La Barbie's status in the Mexican underworld, he may in fact have information valuable to US authorities. Several other heads of Mexican drug cartels, from the BLO to the Gulf Cartel, have also been extradited and are possibly providing intelligence as well. A number of captured drug lords, however, have yet to be sent to the United States, most notably the Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.
A similar dynamic is playing out in other parts of Latin America. Colombia has long used extradition as a judicial weapon against drug traffickers, while countries such as Guatemala and Honduras have also taken to sending drug capos to face justice in the United States.