Harman Patil (Editor)

Medellín Cartel

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Medellín Cartel

Founded by
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez, Griselda Blanco, Carlos Lehder, José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha

Founding location
Antioquia Department, Colombia

Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil

Latinos and international people out of Colombia.

The Medellín Cartel was a highly organized network of drug traffickers and smugglers originating in the city of Medellín, Colombia. The drug cartel operated from the mid-1970s until the early-1990s in Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras, Peru, and the United States, as well as in Canada and Europe. It was founded and run by Ochoa Vázquez brothers Jorge Luis, Juan David, and Fabio, together with Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder and José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha. By 1993, the resistance group, Los Pepes (or PEPES), controlled by the Cali Cartel, and the Colombian government, in collaboration with the Cali Cartel, right-wing paramilitary groups, and the United States government, had dismantled the Medellín Cartel by imprisoning or assassinating its members.


At the height of Pablo Escobar's reign of the Medellín Cartel, Pablo Escobar was the most powerful and richest drug lord in the World, Escobar was also the most violent, ruthless, deadliest, dangerous, and feared drug lord in the World. From 1987-1993, Pablo Escobar was the 7th richest person in the World, Escobar had an astronomical and amazing net worth of $42 Billion (which is equivalent to $107 Billion as of 2017). Escobar became Colombia's top drug kingpin in 1976, but he became the World's top drug kingpin in 1982, around that time Pablo Escobar became the most powerful man in Colombia, and during Pablo Escobar's regime, the Medellín Cartel became bigger and more powerful than the Colombian Government. For 2 decades, The Medellín Cartel was the most powerful, largest, and richest Drug Trafficking Organization in the World, and the Medellín Cartel was also the most violent, ruthless, murderous, dangerous, and feared criminal organization in the World.

Each year from 1986 to 1992 Forbes magazine ranked Escobar as one of the ten most powerful people in the World, ranking 7th, 8th, 5th, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 10th, respectively. Escobar was thus the most powerful man in all of Colombia, and for a decade, Escobar also ruled and controlled all of Colombia, with an iron fist. Escobar was considered by the Colombian Government and the U.S. Government to be "The unofficial dictator of Colombia."

During Pablo Escobar's reign, The U.S. Government, The DEA, and the CIA considered Escobar to be "The World's most dangerous person", "The most ruthless man in the World", "The most feared person in the World", "The Biggest criminal in the World, and in history", "The Biggest Drug Lord in the world", "The most deadliest and violent criminal in the world", "One of the most deadliest and dangerous people of all time", "One of the most powerful people of all time", "one of the most evil people of all time", "The most dangerous and bloodiest criminal in the world", "The most powerful criminal in the World", "One of The most murderous people in the World", "The most murderous criminal in the world", "The most successful drug trafficker in the World", "The most feared criminal in the World", "The most infamous drug lord in the World", "The most richest criminal in the World", "The most richest criminal in history", "The most evil person in the World", and "The most violent man on the planet."

Escobar was often called the "King of Cocaine", "El Patron" (the boss), "el padrino" (The Godfather), and "el señor (The Lord). Escobar had more power, man power, weapons, influences, resources, and reach than the Colombian Government, and the Colombian Military. For almost 2 decades, Escobar was responsible for ordering hundreds of atrocity's, such as 1,300 bombings all over Colombia, Escobars most notorious bombings were the Avianca Flight 203 which killed 110 people. the DAS Building bombing which killed 75 people and severely injured over 1,800 people. A truck bomb that Escobar ordered which killed a total of 489 people, and severely injured 3,000 people, a bus bomb which had around 2,500 pounds of C-4 dynamite, which Escobar ordered, the bus bomb killed a total of 260 people, and wounded around 1,000 people, Escobar ordered 7 car bombs in the same day, which killed a total of 194 people, and injured nearly 800 people. and a car bomb that Escobar ordered, in which was 500 pounds of C-4 dynamite, the car bomb killed 137 adults, and 112 children. and severely injured 600 more people. Escobar ordered the murders of at least 110,000 people, in a 20 year period.


In the late 1970s, the illegal cocaine trade took off and became a major source of profit. By 1982, cocaine surpassed coffee. Private armies were raised to fight off guerrillas who were trying to either redistribute their lands to local peasants, kidnap them, or extort the gramaje money FARC attempted to steal.

At the end of 1981 and the beginning of 1982, members of the Medellín Cartel, the Colombian military, the U.S.-based corporation Texas Petroleum, the Colombian legislature, small industrialists, and wealthy cattle ranchers came together in a series of meetings in Puerto Boyacá and formed a paramilitary organization known as Muerte a Secuestradores ("Death to Kidnappers", MAS) to defend their economic interests, and to provide protection for local elites from kidnappings and extortion. By 1983, Colombian internal affairs had registered 240 political killings by MAS death squads, mostly community leaders, elected officials, and farmers.

The following year, the Asociación Campesina de Ganaderos y Agricultores del Magdalena Medio ("Association of Middle Magdalena Ranchers and Farmers", ACDEGAM) was created to handle both the logistics and the public relations of the organization, and to provide a legal front for various paramilitary groups. ACDEGAM worked to promote anti-labor policies, and threatened anyone involved with organizing for labor or peasants' rights. The threats were backed up by the MAS, which would attack or assassinate anyone who was suspected of being a "subversive". ACDEGAM also built schools whose stated purpose was the creation of a "patriotic and anti-Communist" educational environment, and built roads, bridges, and health clinics. Paramilitary recruiting, weapons storage, communications, propaganda, and medical services were all run out of ACDEGAM headquarters.

By the mid-1980s, ACDEGAM and MAS had experienced significant growth. In 1985, the powerful drug traffickers Juan Matta-Ballesteros, Pablo Escobar, Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha, Carlos Lehder, and Jorge Luis Ochoa began funneling large amounts of cash into the organization to pay for equipment, training, and weaponry. Money for social projects was cut off and redirected towards strengthening the MAS. Modern battle rifles, such as the AKM, FN FAL, Galil, and HK G3, were purchased from the military, INDUMIL, and drug-funded private sales. The organization had computers and ran a communications center that worked in coordination with the state telecommunications office. They had 30 pilots, and an assortment of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. British, Israeli, and U.S. military instructors were hired to teach at paramilitary training centers.


During the height of its operations, the cartel brought in more than $60 million per day. The cartel's total revenue was in the tens of billions, and very possibly the hundreds of billions of dollars. There were many "groups" during the cartel's years, usually white Americans, Canadians, or Europeans, organized for the sole purpose of transporting shipments of cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, and Europe, respectively. One group of members, dubbed "El Tomotes", is believed to have been part of an "enforcement arm" for Escobar, allegedly responsible for many assassinations, bombings, and missions of vengeance for their leader. It is reported that, while most participants in these operations of brutal violence were Colombian, a small number were US citizens. Many groups were infiltrated and taken down by Federal agents and informers, and a few others were stumbled upon by authorities, usually due to some small misstep or careless behavior by a group member.

Relations with the Colombian government

Once authorities were made aware of "questionable activities", the group was put under Federal Drug Task Force surveillance. Evidence was gathered, compiled, and presented to a grand jury, resulting in indictments, arrests, and prison sentences for those convicted. However, very few Colombian cartel leaders were actually taken into custody as a result of these operations. Mostly, non-Colombians conspiring with the cartel were the "fruits" of these indictments.

Most Colombians targeted, as well as those named in such indictments, lived and stayed in Colombia, or fled before indictments were unsealed. However, by 1993 most, if not all, cartel fugitives had been either imprisoned, or hunted and gunned down, by the Colombian National Police trained and assisted by specialized military units and the CIA.

The last of Escobar's lieutenants to be assassinated was Juan Diego Arcila Henao, who had been released from a Colombian prison in 2002 and hidden in Venezuela to avoid the vengeance of "Los Pepes". However he was gunned down in his Jeep Cherokee as he exited the parking area of his home in Cumana, Venezuela, in April 2007.

While it is broadly believed that Los Pepes have been instrumental in the assassination of the cartel's members over the last 17 years, it is still in dispute whether the mantle is just a screen designed to deflect political repercussions from both the Colombian and United States governments' involvement in these assassinations.

Fear of extradition

Perhaps the greatest threat posed to the Medellín Cartel and the other traffickers was the implementation of an extradition treaty between the United States and Colombia. It allowed Colombia to extradite to the US any Colombian suspected of drug trafficking and to be tried there for their crimes. This was a major problem for the cartel, since the drug traffickers had little access to their local power and influence in the US, and a trial there would most likely lead to imprisonment. Among the staunch supporters of the extradition treaty were Colombian Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara (who was pushing for more action against the drug cartels), Police Officer Jaime Ramírez, and numerous Colombian Supreme Court judges.

However, the cartel applied a "bend or break" strategy towards several of these supporters, using bribery, extortion, or violence. Nevertheless, when police efforts began to cause major losses, some of the major drug lords themselves were temporarily pushed out of Colombia, forcing them into hiding from which they ordered cartel members to take out key supporters of the extradition treaty.

The cartel issued death threats to the Supreme Court Judges, asking them to denounce the Extradition Treaty. The warnings were ignored. This led Escobar and the group he called Los Extraditables ("The Extraditables") to start a violent campaign to pressure the Colombian government by committing a series of kidnappings, murders, and narco-terrorist actions.

Alleged relation with the M-19

In November 1985, 35 heavily armed members of the M-19 guerrilla group stormed the Colombian Supreme Court in Bogotá, leading to the Palace of Justice siege. Some claimed at the time that the cartel's influence was behind the M-19's raid, because of its interest in intimidating the Supreme Court. Others state that the alleged cartel-guerrilla relationship was unlikely to occur at the time because the two organizations had been having several standoffs and confrontations, like the kidnappings by M-19 of drug lord Carlos Lehder and of Nieves Ochoa, the sister of Medellín Cartel founder Juan David Ochoa, the kidnapping led to the creation of the MAS/Muerte a Secuestradores ("Death to Kidnappers") paramilitary group by the Medellín Cartel. Former guerrilla members have also denied that the cartel had any part in this event. The issue continues to be debated inside Colombia.


As a means of intimidation, the cartel conducted many hundred assassinations throughout the country. Escobar and his associates made it clear that whoever stood against them would risk being killed along with their families. Some estimates put the total around 3,500 killed during the height of the cartel's reign, including over 500 police officers in Medellín, but the entire list is impossible to assemble, due to the limitation of the judiciary power in Colombia. The following is a brief list of the most notorious assassinations conducted by the cartel:

  • Luis Vasco and Gilberto Hernandez, two DAS agents who had arrested Pablo Escobar in 1976. Among the earliest assassinations of authority figures by the cartel.
  • Rodrigo Lara, Minister of Justice, killed on a Bogotá highway on April 30, 1984 when two gunmen riding a motorcycle approached his vehicle in traffic and opened fire.
  • Tulio Manuel Castro Gil, Superior Judge, killed by motorcycle gunmen in July 1985, shortly after indicting Escobar.
  • Enrique Camarena, DEA agent, February 9, 1985, killed in Guadalajara, Mexico. Tortured and murdered on orders of members of the Guadalajara Cartel and Juan Matta-Ballesteros, a drug lord of the Medellin Cartel.
  • Hernando Baquero Borda, Supreme Court Justice, killed by gunmen in Bogotá on July 31, 1986.
  • Jaime Ramírez, Police Colonel and head of the anti-narcotics unit of the National Police of Colombia. Killed on a Medellín highway in November 1986 when assassins in a red Renault pulled up beside his white Toyota minivan and opened fire. Ramírez was killed instantly; his wife and two sons were wounded.
  • Guillermo Cano Isaza, director of El Espectador, killed in December 1986 in Bogotá by gunmen riding a motorcycle.
  • Jaime Pardo Leal, presidential candidate and head of the Patriotic Union party, killed by a gunman in October, 1987.
  • Carlos Mauro Hoyos, Attorney General, killed by gunmen in Medellín in January 1988.
  • Antonio Roldan Betancur, governor of Antioquia, killed by a car bomb in July 1989.
  • Waldemar Franklin Quintero, Commander of the Antioquia police, killed by gunmen in Medellín in August 1989.
  • Luis Carlos Galán, presidential candidate, killed by gunmen during a rally in Soacha in August 1989. The assassination was carried out on the same day the commander of the Antioquia police was gunned down by the cartel.
  • Carlos Ernesto Valencia, Superior Judge, killed by gunmen shortly after indicting Escobar on the death of Guillermo Cano, in August 1989.
  • Jorge Enrique Pulido, journalist, director of Jorge Enrique Pulido TV, killed by gunmen in Bogotá in November 1989.
  • Diana Turbay, journalist, chief editor of the Hoy por Hoy magazine, killed during a rescue attempt in January 1991.
  • Enrique Low Murtra, Minister of Justice, killed by gunmen in downtown Bogotá in May 1991.
  • Myriam Rocio Velez, Superior Judge, killed by gunmen shortly before she was to sentence Escobar on the assassination of Galan, in September 1992.
  • In 1993, shortly before Escobar's death, the cartel lieutenants were also targeted by the vigilante group Los Pepes (or PEPES, People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar).

    With the assassination of Juan Diego Arcila Henao in 2007, most if not all of Escobar's lieutenants who were not in prison had been killed by the Colombian National Police Search Bloc (trained and assisted by U.S. Delta Force and CIA operatives), or by the Los Pepes vigilantes.

    DEA agents considered that their four-pronged "Kingpin Strategy", specifically targeting senior cartel figures, was a major contributing factor to the collapse of the organization.


    La Oficina de Envigado is believed to be a partial successor to the Medellín organization. It was founded by Don Berna as an enforcement wing for the Medellín Cartel. When Don Berna fell out with Escobar, La Oficina caused Escobar's rivals to oust Escobar. The organization then inherited the Medellín turf and its criminal connections in the U.S., Mexico, and the U.K., and began to affiliate with the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, organising drug trafficking operations on their behalf.

    The cartel is either featured or referenced in numerous works of popular culture. Examples are listed below and in Medellín Cartel#See also.

  • The cartel is referenced in the film Sicario (2015).
  • Narcos – a Netflix original television series (2015–) chronicles the life of Pablo Escobar and the rise and fall of the Medellín Cartel.
  • Escobar, el Patrón del Mal is a television soap opera that chronicles cartel leader Pablo Escobar's life and the cartel's activities during his era.
  • References

    Medellín Cartel Wikipedia