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Mexican police deny accused drug lord's government corruption claims

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
November 29, 2012 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Edgar Valdez Villareal is seen in 2010. He is a former Texas high school football star known as
Edgar Valdez Villareal is seen in 2010. He is a former Texas high school football star known as "La Barbie."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Federal police say Edgar Valdez Villarreal has tried to blackmail authorities
  • The accused drug lord says in a letter that he paid off security officials
  • His letter, police say, is an attempt to stop authorities and skirt justice
  • Valdez is known as "La Barbie" because of his blue eyes and light complexion

(CNN) -- Mexico's federal police had harsh words Wednesday for an American-born accused drug lord who claimed he paid off top security officials.

Edgar Valdez Villarreal has repeatedly "tried to blackmail authorities to obtain privileges," Mexico's Public Safety Secretariat said. "Held in a federal maximum security prison, he has tried to get benefits during his stay, including threatening hunger strikes to pressure them."

Read more: Police: Accused drug lord moved tons of cocaine to U.S.

Police released the statement after Mexico's Reforma newspaper published a letter purportedly from the alleged drug lord, a former Texas high school football star known as "La Barbie" because of his blue eyes and light complexion.

In the letter, Valdez claims that Mexico's top security officials have received bribes from him, "from drug trafficking and from organized crime."

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Valdez told Reforma that authorities arrested him in 2010 after he refused to participate in a deal President Felipe Calderon was allegedly trying to negotiate with the country's major drug gangs. In an address broadcast Wednesday night, Calderon did not respond to that claim, but the outgoing president has repeatedly spoken out against organized crime and corruption.

Investigators have described Valdez as one of the most ruthless drug traffickers in Mexico.

His letter, police said, aims to stop "authorities' actions against criminal organizations by publicly discrediting those who have fought them."

Read more: Police: American-born drug kingpin arrested in Mexico

Federal police said Wednesday that Valdez is connected with many violent homicides and implied that he could be trying to avoid justice with his letter.

"Organized crime and its allies historically have tried to maintain themselves in impunity and avoid at all costs that the Mexican government pursues and captures them," police said.

Spokesman Jose Ramon Salinas read the federal police statement Wednesday but did not take questions from reporters.

He said federal police had arrested 128,242 criminals in the past six years, including nearly 3,500 connected with the command structure of organized crime groups.

The letter's publication comes amid increased scrutiny of Genaro Garcia Luna, who heads Mexico's federal police. He is scheduled to testify before lawmakers Thursday about his division's human rights record.

And his agency is in the crosshairs of Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, who takes office Saturday.

Mexico's new leader to U.S.: Let's get beyond the drug war

Pena Nieto has proposed a bureaucratic overhaul that would eliminate Garcia Luna's Cabinet post and place the force under Mexico's Interior Ministry.

Asked why she released the letter from Valdez, the accused kingpin's lawyer said she was "simply and sensibly complying with an instruction my client gave me," according to Reforma, and said that her client could be extradited to the United States at any moment.

Attorney Erendira Joselyn Guerra Gutierrez told the newspaper that Valdez had a right "for facts to be clarified and for justice to be done."

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Valdez is accused in the United States of attempting to launder money and conspiring to import and distribute cocaine. Valdez is believed to have played a key role in shipping roughly 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of cocaine across the border at Laredo, Texas, every week for much of 2005, U.S. authorities have said.

Before his arrest, U.S. Justice Department officials offered a $2 million reward for information leading to the capture of the alleged cocaine kingpin.

In Mexico, Valdez faces charges that include drug trafficking, kidnapping and arms possession, Mexico's Attorney General's Office has said.

Mexican authorities touted his 2010 arrest as a high-profile win in the nation's drug war.

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Valdez was allegedly a one-time top lieutenant of Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

He later joined the breakaway Beltran Leyva cartel, but the leader of that group, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in a shootout with Mexican officials in late 2009. Beltran's brother Carlos was arrested, leaving Valdez in a fight to fill a power vacuum in one of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels.

CNN's Rafael Romo and Rey Rodriguez and CNNMexico.com contributed to this report.

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