Major drug trafficker Edgar
La Barbie escorted by Mexican federal police during a news conference at the federal police centre in Mexico City August 31, 2010Reuters

A Mexican drug lord dubbed 'La Barbie' faces life imprisonment after pleading guilty to importing more than 1,000kg of cocaine to the US. The American-born Edgar Valdez Villareal is a leading figure in the Beltran Leyva cartel and was extradited along with 12 other alleged cartel members in September 2015.

Valdez, is a US citizen who is accused of leaving a trail of shocking violence across Mexico, and admitted conspiring to import and distribute cocaine across the US and conspiring to launder money. The hearing took place amid high security, including at least six armed US Marshalls, on 6 January at a federal court in Atlanta, Georgia.

US officials say that La Barbie, so-called because of his fair complexion, was born in Laredo, Texas, had a middle class upbringing where his father was bar and nightclub owner. He played as a linebacker for the high school football team and allegedly began selling marijuana whilst still in his teens.

But he soon began to expand his operations to neighbouring states and began to rise in the Beltran Leyva Cartel where he earned a reputation for brutal violence while leading a team of hitmen. At his peak, he lived in some of the most exclusive areas in Mexico City but that all came to an end when the cartel's founder Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed by Mexican security forces in 2009.

His death set off a power struggle between Valdez and Leyva's brother, Hector. In the bloody gang violence which followed, dismembered and mutilated bodies were found in the streets of Cuernavaca and Acapulco as both sides fought for the leadership of the cartel.

Valdez, was said to have a $2m (£1.37m) price on his head but was captured at his vacation home near Mexico City in August 2010. Mexican President Felipe Calderon labelled him "one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and abroad".

He was then held for extradition to the US in September 2015. Mexican officials claim that the Beltran Leyva cartel has now been destroyed but cartel violence across the nation persists.

Former La Familia Michoacana cartel boss, Carlos Rosales Mendoza's body was found with three others by a motorway in the western state of Morelia, on 29 December. And the hunt continues for arguably the most notorious cartel leader, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman of the Sinaloa cartel who escaped from a maximum-security jail in July 2015.

Carlos Montemayor Gonzalez, was extradited alongside Valdez and faces charges in the case. He has pleaded not guilty.