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Alleged Drug Kingpin ‘Barbie’ Arrested in Mexico

August 31, 2010 at 5:31 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to another country right next to the United States that also is coping with violence. Mexican officials have announced the arrest of a major target in that country’s drug wars.

March before the cameras this morning under heavy guard, Edgar Valdez Villarreal was a long way from his high school football days in Laredo, Texas. His coach had nicknamed him the Barbie for his green eyes and fair skin. And the moniker stuck. But now, at 37 years old, he stands accused as one of Mexico’s top drug traffickers. The alleged kingpin was arrested yesterday outside Mexico City without incident.

FACUNDO ROSAS ROSAS, commissioner, Mexican Federal Police (through translator): This arrest is the result of intelligence work and actions carried out by the Federal Police. Throughout this investigation, we exchanged information with various United States agencies, as well as the national defense and navy secretariats and the attorney general’s office.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The arrest was a rare success for Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon. His government has waged a war against drug cartels since 2006. And nearly 30,000 people have been killed. Valdez had been locked in a vicious war of succession within the Beltran Leyva cartel.

The organization’s namesake, Arturo Beltran Leyva, died in a hail of gun fire last December, as Mexican authorities closed in on him. U.S. authorities had put a $2 million bounty on Valdez. He’s under indictment in Atlanta for drug trafficking. But there was no word on whether he would be extradited.