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In Mexico's drug kingpin landscape, who will replace 'La Barbie'?

La barbie mexico kingpin latimes

Federal police in Mexico on Monday captured a notorious drug kingpin, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, also known as "La Barbie." Valdez, 37, is the Texas-born don with boyish blondish looks, considered attractive in Mexico, who operated within the Beltran Leyva drug-trafficking organization.

Authorities presented Valdez in a customary parade before the Mexican press Tuesday morning. The captured kingpin, wearing the same jeans and polo shirt from his Monday arrest, looked down a few times and smiled sheepishly, or shrugged, ignoring questions (see video in Spanish at El Universal). Valdez allegedly trafficked a ton of cocaine a month, federal police said (link in Spanish).

The arrest is a victory for President Felipe Calderon and his struggling, nearly four-year-long assault on powerful cartels, but few people here are likely cheering at the news. In Mexico, the removal of one drug-trafficking boss usually leads to a flurry of violence as various deputies, or even outsiders, attempt to move in and fill the power vacuum. Valdez had been locked in just such a battle with Hector Beltran Leyva, brother to Arturo Beltran Leyva, the cartel chief who died in a shootout with Mexican marines in December. 

As Tracy Wilkinson reports in The Times: "But arresting Valdez will not necessarily quell the violence since others may rise to fight for control of the Beltran Leyva operations."

The question for many now is, 'Who will take La Barbie's place?' A top anti-organized crime investigator told reporters that Valdez has already told them of a "summit" held last year in Cuernavaca between top drug kingpins, an attempt to quell the surging violence across the country (link in Spanish). But the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva caused those talks to break down.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Edgar Valdez Villarreal, or "La Barbie," after his arrest Monday. Credit: Mexico federal policeMexico

Comments () | Archives (7)

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It is the Demand side of the equation that has to be addressed in the fight against drugs. Domestic distribution fills the pockets of not just prison kingpins and drug gangs but of croocked local, county, state, and federal law enforcement so called officers and politicians.
Greed is rampant in our "American House" as much as it is anywhere else.

If the cartels have operations in 230 cities as reported in the Media as if this were fact, how were these same drugs; cocaine, pot, meth, heroin, etc. distributed previously before the Mexican cartels even existed? Who moved this contraband in the 60´s? In the 80´s ala Miami Vice? How do tons of drugs make it into the American household? How does 113 billion $$ of pot get moved-only by Mexican cartel operatives? Come on, the traffickers have been working for decades in the prison systems, with the street gangs- what do you think the drive-by shootings are all about? It is amazing the hypocracy of the consuming populace to point fingers at all Mexicans, the Mexican government, brown-skinned criminals, etc.as they light up their bongs...

Boyish, blondish looks considered a minority in Mexico? So sad to think this is what people assume since it is obvious it is based on limited or no knowledge of Mexico and it´s citizens.
Matthew, have you ever gone to the cities of Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla,DF or just to the beaches, if at that?
Mexico was settled by Europeans. Spanish (who happen to be blond if they are from the north, such as the Basques) Italians, Portuguese, Irish, French, North Americans, etc., over the centuries, but that would take a knowledge of Mexican history, which I doubt Americans have, right?

If you were familiar with the urban, cosmopolitan cities, you would not be posting such an ignorant and ethocentric opinion. Mexicans come in all shapes,sizes and colors, whether they are descendents of Italians,French, Irish, Spaniards, Slaves, or Indigenous residents, just like in the not so old USA. Remember, Mexico has a history that is over 5,000 yrs old, and counting....Worth learning a little about it.

OK. So we know Barbie was shipping a ton of coke a month into the US, and probably so are the other 8 or 10 drug kingpins in Mexico.
But who are the American Kingpins BUYING these tons of drugs. It seems to me that we can take out all the drug exporters in Mexico for as long as we can and they will simply be replaced.
WHY ARE WE NOT CATCHING THE BUYERS? IS WE LOCK THE BUYERS UP, I DOUBT THESE MEXICAN KINGPINS ARE GOING TO SELL THEIR TONS OF DRUGS ON STREET CORNERS.
We need to get real about this fight.

"Boyish blondish looks, considered a minority in Mexico. "

Well, if it's legalized in California, the only licensed California growers should be allowed to supply it. No outsourcing on that one, eh?

$113 billion is spent on marijuana every year in the U.S., and because of the prohibition *every* dollar of it goes straight into the hands of criminals. Far from preventing people from using marijuana, the prohibition instead creates zero legal supply amid massive and unrelenting demand.

According to the ONDCP, at least sixty percent of Mexican drug cartel money comes from selling marijuana in the U.S., they protect this revenue by brutally torturing, murdering and dismembering thousands of innocent people.

If we can STOP people using marijuana then we need to do so NOW, but if we can't then we need to legalize the production and sale of marijuana to adults with after-tax prices set too low for the cartels to match. One way or another, we have to force the cartels out of the marijuana market and eliminate their highly lucrative marijuana incomes - no business can withstand the loss of sixty percent of its revenue!

To date, the cartels have amassed more than 100,000 "foot soldiers" and operate in 230 U.S. cities, and the longer they're able to exploit the prohibition the more powerful they get and the more our own personal security is put at risk.


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Ken Ellingwood
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