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From A Hitman To A Protected Witness

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“Sol Prendido for Borderland Beat

Edgar Valdez Villarreal “La Barbie” was one of the Sinaloa Cartel’s most bloodthirsty hitmen in the midst of the “war on drugs. A North American from Laredo, Texas, he entered the criminal world at an early age across the border, but his criminal skills secured him a position in the Mexican mafia.

First on his own, then with the Beltran Leyva and later for Sinaloa, “La Barbie”, nicknamed for his blue eyes, white complexion and blond hair, killed, trafficked drugs, weapons, money and spread terror. He killed in cold blood as he ordered others to commit crimes in his name. He made a fortune of millions in the underworld that allowed him, with impunity, to amass houses, land, jewelry, vehicles and whatever his luxury whim was.

It is still in the collective memory that time, in 2009, when he was apprehended by the Mexican authorities and, upon “presenting” him to the press, he was allowed to wear tennis shoes, a Polo shirt and Levi’s to show off the good life with a smile on his face.

But even with all the statements, the accusations, the declarations of detainees and collaborating witnesses, Edgar Valdez was not prosecuted in Mexico, the country where he committed most of his bloodiest crimes.

Between his arrest in 2009 and his extradition in 2015, “La Barbie” was sentenced to formal imprisonment in Mexico, in a trial in the Third District Court of the State of Guerrero, criminal case 57/2005, for the crimes of organized crime, illegal deprivation of liberty in the form of kidnapping and possession of rounds for the exclusive use of the Mexican Army. However, as it usually happens, he was not sentenced. If he had been, he could have received between 20 and 40 years in prison for organized crime, or between 30 and 50 for kidnapping. But no. Mexico let him go without sentencing him.

In the United States, Edgar Valdez Villarreal was sentenced to 49 years in prison, when he reached an agreement with the prosecution to avoid life imprisonment; he was supposed to finish serving his sentence in 2056. There he was charged, prosecuted and sentenced for four drug trafficking crimes and one for money laundering. He was also fined 192 million dollars.

But a few days ago, uncertainty prevailed regarding the whereabouts of “La Barbie”. The last information on the prisoner was that he was serving 49 years in a U.S. prison, but a search in the U.S. prison system showed, or at least gave the impression, that the bloodthirsty capo had been released. In the search for his location, his name did not appear as a person officially deprived of liberty.

Even the Mexican government, through President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, was unaware of the whereabouts of the drug trafficker who committed his crimes on national soil.

Evidencing the lack of coordination, understanding and common strategy, AMLO criticized in one of his morning conferences the possibility that the drug lord was at large, and demanded a response from the U.S. Government. It would not come through the direct channels of the Presidency.

In his visit to Tijuana, which more than a work tour as Minister of Foreign Affairs, was a pre-electoral tour as Morena’s presidential candidate and before the pressure of national reporters who accompanied him in his campaign events, Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón declared that “La Barbie” was still in prison, as he had been informed by the United States, although he did not specify neither the prison where the drug trafficker is being held, nor the future that awaits him.

Contacts in Washington confirm that Valdez Villarreal is still incarcerated, although they do not specify for how long he will remain in that capacity. What they do say is that the former bloodthirsty Sinaloa Cartel hitman, drug trafficker and leader of the Beltrán Leyva’s armed wing, will become a protected witness for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“La Barbie”, they assure, has reached an agreement with the authorities to be a key witness in the trial that will begin in the first days of 2023 against Genaro García Luna, former Secretary of Security in the federal administration of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, apprehended in the U.S. on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

It would not be the first time that Edgar Valdez has pointed the finger at Genaro García Luna. In 2009, shortly after his arrest, he publicly denounced him in a letter as the one who received money from organized crime to protect them. Textually, in a letter sent to the newspaper Reforma, “La Barbie” said: “Genaro García Luna, head of the Federal Public Security Secretariat (SSP), who at least since 2002, first in the AFI and then in the PFP, I know has received money from me, from drug trafficking and organized crime, as well as a select group made up of Armando Espinoza de Benito, who worked with the DEA and passed information to me; Luis Cárdenas Palomino, Edgar Eusebio Millán Gómez, Francisco Javier Palacios (PF Colombia), Igor Labastida Calderón, Facundo Rosas, Ramón Eduardo Pequeño García and Gerardo Garay Cadena, who also form part of and receive money from organized crime and from me”.

The imprisoned drug lord also accused Calderón Hinojosa of a strategy to “sit down” with his former Interior Secretary, Juan Camilo Muriño, with cartel leaders in Mexico.

Of course, at the time, the Mexican authorities did not investigate “La Barbie’s” allegations to determine if there were crimes to prosecute against public officials, or if it was an act of defamation. Nothing, nothing was investigated. In the end, several of those mentioned in Valdez’s letter would end up in prison, as is the case of Genaro García Luna.

To date, they trust from the United States, “La Barbie” has been taken into custody and eliminated from the public system of prisoner location to protect the integrity of the man who, they presume, will be fundamental in the trial against García Luna. “They want him to arrive alive”, they justify.

The agreement reached by the drug trafficker is to testify in the trial against the former Secretary of Federal Security, provide evidence (it is assumed) of his statements and contribute to the sentencing of García Luna in exchange for becoming a protected witness. That he be assigned an identity different from his own, an address in some region of North America and other types of collaborations and official protection, so that he can live his life in freedom.

The 49 years to which he was sentenced would be cancelled. The crimes pending trial in Mexico will continue to wait. By agreement, “La Barbie” will achieve a pact of impunity in his country, even for the crimes he committed in Mexico.

One of the most bloodthirsty hitmen that the Sinaloa Cartel has ever had, will live in peace, thanks to a benevolent government like that of the United States, particularly with the criminals who commit crimes in Mexico, and to prove with García Luna what they could not with General Salvador Cienfuegos: that drug trafficking is infiltrated in the center of the Government of the Republic, not to mention the states.

Zeta Tijuana


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