Drugs and Money: Laundering Latin America's Cocaine Dollars

By Robert E. Grosse | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

The Andean Cocaine Business

INTRODUCTION

In 1993, Colombian law enforcement agents finally caught up with Pablo Escobar, and a SWAT team shot him to death in a brief gun battle in his home in Medellin. He died, appropriately enough, with a pistol blazing in each hand. Escobar represented the last key member of the Medellin cartel leadership, after the Ochoa brothers, Jorge Luis and Fabio, had been captured and jailed, Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha (the Mexican) had been gunned down in a battle with police, and Carlos Lehder had much earlier been captured and extradited to the United States, where he remains in prison. This seemed to mark the end of an era of violent and open opposition to Colombian laws and flamboyant lifestyles of the chief cocaine cowboys.

At the same time law enforcement moved to focus on the Cali cartel, another group of large-scale cocaine traffickers was headquartered in the rival city of Cali, to the south and west of Medellin in the valley of the Cauca River. The Cali cartel members followed a much lower visibility strategy of operations, seldom calling attention to themselves by staging Hollywood-style assassinations or using the media to brag about their exploits. Despite this lower profile method of operating, the Cali cartel was recognized as a major force in the drug trafficking industry, and law enforcement agents had long ago identified the key leaders of the group. During 1994 and 1995, most of the leaders of this group, including Jose Santacruz Londoño, Gilberto Rodriguez Orajuela, and Miguel Rodriguez Orajuela, were captured and jailed as well.

From these brief stories it may appear that the problem of Andean cocaine trafficking has been largely resolved. Indeed, no new cartels in Colombia have achieved the market share or notoriety of the Cali and Medellin groups of the

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