Who is Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias "La Barbie"?

"La Barbie" is a U.S. citizen arrested in 2010, and was one of the most wanted drug traffickers by Mexico and the United States in the early years of the so-called "war on drugs".

Who is Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias "La Barbie"?
Édgar Valdez Villarreal, "La Barbie", one of the most powerful operators of the Sinaloa and Beltrán Leyva Cartels, is no longer in prison, MILENIO was able to confirm; he had been sentenced to 49 years in prison for cocaine trafficking and money laundering. Photo: Agencies

After the alleged release of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias "La Barbie", who did not appear in the US Federal Bureau of Prisons' prisoner search engine, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, confirmed that he is still in the custody of US authorities.

After inaugurating the 46th Express Passport Office, located at the International Airport of the City of Tijuana, Baja California, the Mexican Foreign Minister stated that, since yesterday and this morning, November 29, his U.S. counterparts confirmed to him that "Barbie" had not yet been released.

"Of "Barbie", I still do not have confirmation that he has been released. That is, he is still in custody, but they have not given us details of what's next. We were told by the U.S. Embassy that he is still in custody. We are going to see if that is the case or not", - Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) expressed that he will continue to monitor the status of Édgar Valdez Villareal, who was extradited by the Mexican government during the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The precise status of Valdez Villarreal is not known at this time, although it is suggested that he may be under the US-protected witness program. Édgar Valdez was captured in August 2010 and in 2015 was extradited to the United States along with other drug lords, following the escape of Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán.

In January 2106, he pleaded guilty in federal court in Atlanta to trafficking cocaine between 2004 and 2006 as well as money laundering. In June 2018, he received a sentence of 49 years and one month in prison. The trial in the United States against Genaro García Luna, Mexico's former public security minister, was postponed on Monday to 17 January 2023.

Who is Edgar Valdez Villarreal, 'La Barbie'?

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, also known as "La Barbie," was born in August 1973 in Laredo, Texas, in the United States. "La Barbie" started breaking the law in the United States at a very young age. When he was 19, he was arrested for having marijuana on him.

After he got out of jail, he ran away to Mexico and kept working in the drug trade there. When he was still living in the United States, his soccer coach called him "La Barbie" because he had white skin, blonde hair, and light eyes.

Since the early 2000s, when he was suspected of dealing drugs in Texas, New Orleans, Memphis, Tennessee, and Mississippi, U.S. authorities had been looking for him. In 2001, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, also known as "El Barbas," who was a major leader of the "Federation" at the time, helped Valdez Villarreal.

La Barbie, the DEA and the FBI

Before turning 30 years old, "La Barbie" was already part of the conglomerate of cartels (Sinaloa, Juarez, and Beltran Leyva) called "La Federacion" and specifically worked for Marcos Arturo Beltran Leyva. In an interview with the Federal Police, he admitted that he met Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada García in person.

However, in an official document to which journalist Anabel Hernández had access, it was detailed that from 2008 to 2010, the drug trafficker collaborated with the DEA and the FBI as an informant through a third party. His associates were completely unaware of this double facet of Valdez Villarreal, but neither were the corrupt officials to whom he claimed to have paid large bribes, such as former Federal Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna.

"La Barbie" allegedly detailed to US authorities how the corrupt scheme of high-level Mexican government officials worked in their dealings with drug traffickers and how they shared sensitive information with major organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltran Leyva Cartel.

He witnessed how Mexican officials gave these two cartels the identities, photographs, and locations of DEA agents working undercover in various parts of Mexico. In fact, in the document, the US government acknowledged that thanks to the information given by "La Barbie" it was able to save the lives of its agents.

In November 2012, "La Barbie" gave Anabel Hernandez a letter signed by him in which he claimed to have delivered millions in bonuses to Genaro Garcia Luna, as well as to his closest collaborators, including Luis Cardenas Palomino, Facundo Rosas, and Armando Espinosa, among others. In that letter, the drug lord claimed that President Felipe Calderón himself was leading meetings with drug traffickers.

The letter from "La Barbie" in which he blamed Calderon and Garcia Luna

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, also known as "La Barbie," was arrested on November 27, 2010. Two years later, on November 27, 2012, he sent a letter to the press in which he said that former President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa of the National Action Party (PAN) had ties to the drug trade.

"I categorically deny the accusations and statements made by the arresting officers regarding how I was arrested," the drug lord wrote in the letter. "The truth of the facts is the following: my arrest was the result of political persecution by Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, who instigated harassment against me."

The reason for this harassment by Felipe Calderón, according to Valdez Villarreal, was because he had refused to be part of the agreement that the former president "wanted to have with all organized crime groups," for which he held several meetings to have talks with organized crime groups.

Later, the general met in Matamoros with Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Angel Treviño Z-40. Sometime later, Acosta Chaparro and Mouriño, according to the capo's testimony, met with Arturo Beltran Leyva, alias "El Barbas" and also with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The intention of Calderón, architect of the controversial "War on Drugs", was to reach some sort of agreement with all the cartels: Zetas, Gulf, Juarez, and Sinaloa, for which, as Valdez pointed out, "when there was no response from me and I did not want to have links with any of the criminal organizations, a sharp persecution was set up against me, to the extent of having several homes searched without a legal order to do so, from which they stole money, jewelry, cars, as well as various belongings."

Regarding the former Secretary of Federal Public Security, Genaro García Luna, whose trial in the United States will begin on January 17, the drug trafficker born in Laredo, Texas, said that he was aware that "he has received money from me, from drug trafficking and organized crime, as well as from a select group integrated by Armando Espinosa de Benito, who worked with the DEA and passed me information."

He even listed the names of those who participated in the corrupting apparatus in favor of the narco: Luis Cárdenas Palomino, Edgar Eusebio Millán Gómez, Francisco Javier Garza Palacios (PF Colombia), Igor Labastida Calderón, Facundo Rosas Rosas, Ramón Eduardo Pequeño García and Gerardo Garay Cadena.