Mexican authorities this week handed over custody of Mario Villanueva, the former governor of the state of Quintana Roo, to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to face charges of narcotrafficking and money laundering. The extradition was seen as a long-fought victory for U.S. diplomatic efforts to bring him to justice in the United States as Villanueva had successfully avoided extradition for nearly three years.
In an article published yesterday by Americas Quarterly, Council of Foreign Relations fellow Shannon O’neil discusses how as the power center of the drug trade in recent years has shifted from Colombia to Mexico, the U.S. has stepped up its effort to engage Mexico directly with such efforts as the Merida Initiative.
The extradition of Villanueva is a noteworthy example of how increased U.S.-Mexico efforts to clamp down on the drug trade on both sides of their mutual border may be paying off. Over the past several years, Mexico has extradited 326 known heads and associates of the Mexican drug cartels to the U.S.
Villanueva was flown to White Plains, New York Saturday evening under the custody of the US DEA where he is awaiting trial.