Valdez is not your typical cartel boss. He grew up on the American side of the border in Laredo, Texas. Valdez was brought up in an upper middle class family and was a high school football star. The exact reasons for him going rogue have not been spelled out heretofore. He began to sell marijuana in Laredo and eventually crossed over the border, where he was a top lieutenant for Joaquin El Chapo Guzman.
Then Valdez joined the Beltran Leyva cartel; Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed in a shootout last December and his brother Carlos was arrested also, leaving a leadership vacuum in the organization. It’s not clear whether Valdez was trying to assume control of this cartel, or whether he was forming a new one.
The 37-year-old drug lord’s primary operation involved the smuggling of thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Laredo to Atlanta, which became a major distribution hub for the entire eastern United States. A federal indictment has been filed charging Valdez and five others with distribution of cocaine and money laundering.
The U.S. Justice Department wants to extradite La Barbie and prosecute him here in the U.S. This is one thing that distinguishes this case; Valdez was bilingual and could work well by moving across the border and establishing connections here in the U.S. The account of how one of his capos was captured is shocking.
Jesus Ramos was stopped by the Georgia State Patrol with a tractor-trailer that had been loaded with stuffed duffel bags of cash. On August 17, 2005 the police confiscated $2.5 million in drug proceeds. On a weekly basis truckloads that were hauling up to 300 kilograms of cocaine drove into Atlanta and were stored in distribution centers.
A cult status has grown up around this fair skinned, blue eyed playboy of a bandito. La Barbie was legendary for his extravagance with cars, clothes and houses in the Mexico City vicinity. He was also notorious for his violence, where recently rivals were beheaded then hung from bridges. It’s said that he has killed hundreds of people by his own hand.
But there he was on Monday grinning at the cameras, reduced to yet another thug who will spend the rest of his life behind bars. And while the Mexican government was playing this up as a major blow against the organized crime antics of drug traffickers, many experts were skeptical that much will change.
Really all it does, is it causes new drug wars to break out in a struggle to fill the power vacuum. The reasons for this are fundamentally economic. Drug sales are big money and there are lots of unemployed young people in Mexico who are lured into the business. They are the La Barbies of tomorrow. The cycle will not be broken until the demand for drugs from the U.S. diminishes. It may be a long wait.