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LATIN AMERICA: Narco Kingpin Arrested In Shooting Of Soccer Star Salvador Cabañas

A suspected Mexican drug trafficker is charged with last year's barroom shooting of Cabañas, one of Latin American soccer's top strikers.

Mexican police (Scazon)

EYES INSIDE - LATIN AMERICA


When soccer star was shot in the head at a Mexico City nightclub last year, it seemed the whole of Latin America gasped in collective horror. The Paraguayan-born striker was the leading goal-scorer at both the 2007 and 2008 Copa Libertadores continental club tournament, as well as the Mexican league's top scorer for 2006. Cabañas, who was playing for Mexico City team Club América at the time he was shot, has made a remarkable recovery, though it is still unclear whether he will ever play again.

Mexico's amateur crime sleuths as well as professional investigators have speculated what provoked a suspected drug trafficker to shoot the 30-year-old at point-blank range in the barroom bathroom.

But this week investigators seem to be getting some answers. Mexican police announced the arrest of José Jorge Balderas Garza, a suspected drug trafficker better known as J.J. who was at the club Bar-Bar on the morning of January 25, 2010 when Cabañas was shot.

Balderas, who was captured along with his Colombian beauty queen girlfriend, had been wanted for his alleged ties to a notorious US-born drug kingpin, Édgar "La Barbie" Váldez Villarreal, arrested last August.

The El Universal daily of Mexico City reported that Balderas' bodyguard has testified that just before the shooting occurred, his boss and the soccer star got into an argument at the Bar-Bar over a recent Club América match. According to the testimony, Balderas stopped him on the way to the bathroom and questioned him about the goals he didn't score in the game in question.

But in a television interview with the Mexican Televisa network, carried on news websites this week across Latin America, Balderas maintains that his bodyguard shot Cabañas in a drunken rage.

El Universal reports that the 30-year-old Cabañas, who is back in Paraguay slowly recovering from his gunshot wound to the head, can't remember what happened that night and is not expected to return to Mexico to testify.

The shooting is just one of many piling up in Mexico's bloody narco war, which has claimed more than 30,000 lives since President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006 and called out the army to battle the drug cartels. Sometimes it takes a football phenomenon to put a face on senseless violence.

Martin Delfín

Worldcrunch

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