'What's La Barbie smiling about?'
The headlines in Mexican newspapers this week -- "What's La Barbie smiling about?" -- weren't just posing a question. They were referring to speculation that arose almost immediately about the capture of the wanted drug lord Edgar Valdez Villareal, also known as "La Barbie," on Monday in central Mexico. If Valdez, as a U.S. citizen, were extradicted to face charges outside Mexico, could he reveal information about other wanted drug lords in exchange for a lighter sentence?
The Times's Ken Ellingwood addresses this topic in a story Wednesday:
That would give U.S. prosecutors a chance to glean information from Valdez about smuggling operations, money-laundering and the whereabouts of other drug bosses in exchange for the promise of a lighter sentence, if he is convicted.
"He's a businessman and a brilliant businessman, in many ways. He's going to want to cut a deal," said Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence at Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based global intelligence firm.
"La Barbie" has already revealed plenty as it is. Under interrogation by Mexico's Federal Police, portions of which have been posted as video segments by some news organizations, "La Barbie" speaks of making "investments" in Colombia, receiving trailers full of cash from the U.S., and said he's already retained a producer to make a film version of his life.
Valdez also placed the blame for the current surging violence in Mexico squarely on Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, head of the Sinaloa Cartel (link in Spanish). The major drug lords in Mexico met at a "summit" in Cuernavaca in mid-2007, Valdez said, but talks later broke down.
"It all started with Juarez," Valdez said in the interrogation, adding that "El Chapo" broke an agreement and began entering the Juarez "plaza," or drug-crossing point, and killing opponents in the Juarez cartel.
Valdez then called the ruthless Zetas gang -- believed responsible for last week's migrant massacre -- a "danger" to everyone because they don't respect agreements at all. "Let not even their mothers love them," Valdez said.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: Edgar Valdez Villareal, also known as "La Barbie," in custody in Mexico. Credit: EFE, via El Pais