Authorities in Mexico have detained the alleged Texas-born cartel leader Edgar Valdez Villarreal, also known as “La Barbie.”
Villarreal, whose nickname owes to his light skin and hair, was reportedly apprehended in the Mexican state of Morelos, the Mexican news outlet Televisa reports. He is the former “right hand” of Alturo Beltran Leyva, the leader of the Beltran Leyva cartel,who was gunned down last year by Mexican authorities. The Beltran Leyvas were at one time part of the Sinaloa cartel, led by one of Mexico’s most famous kingpins, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
Since Beltran Leyva’s death, Villarreal had carved out his own group of enforcers that was vying for control of what was left of the cartel, according to a biographical piece on Villarreal by the San Antonio Express-News.
Villarreal gained notoriety as an enforcer in the Sinaloa cartel over the course of the last decade, when it was embroiled in a turf war with the Gulf Cartel and its former enforcement arm, Los Zetas, who fought for control of the lucrative Interstate 35 corridor. During its heyday, the violence between the two factions trickled into Laredo, where Zeta leader Miguel Treviño Morales, one of Villarreal’s sworn enemies, recruited teenage hit men, or sicarios, to carry out murders on the U.S. side of the border. Treviño Morales is still at large and is being sought by Mexican and U.S. authorities.
Laredo Police Department spokesman Jose E. Baeza confirmed Villarreal was wanted in the U.S. on drug charges and said his capture wouldn’t necessarily quell the violence in Nuevo Laredo, which had increased in the past months.
“Many people are eager to put a head on the monster, but my take on it is that there are three or four more heads that will grow in its place,” Baeza said. “It’s too easy to say it [the violence] will subside. It doesn’t just go away.”