What happened to the Cali cartel

The decline of the Colombian Cali cartel

The coca bosses of the Cali drug cartel have tumbled like dominoes in recent weeks. Colombia's chief of police, General José Serrano, proudly presented six of the seven most wanted men in handcuffs. The cartel is said to have controlled 80 percent of the cocaine business with the United States and turned over four billion dollars annually.

Gilberto Orejuela is considered to be the leading man in the Cali cartel. Serranos' agents tracked him down on June 10th in his first wife's apartment. His brother Miguel was arrested on August 8th. At the press conference, he smiled, sure of victory: "Before the elections, politicians stood in line in front of my office," emphasized the 58-year-old man, more of a cozy cattle breeder than a drug baron. He was seen as a financier of election campaigns and his "friendships" with provincial governors, judges and police officers were an open secret.

José Santacruz, third in the drug hierarchy, was recognized in a restaurant in Bogotá. He and his three bodyguards were arrested without resistance. Henry Loaiza, on the other hand, the "scorpion" and liaison with right-wing paramilitary gangs, turned himself in to the police. Skeptics see it as a sign that agreements have been reached with the government on a reduced sentence and the continued disposal of coca assets. Corresponding contacts are said to have existed as early as 1994. Cocaine prices in New York, which react like seismographs to every change in Colombia, also remained constant. The USA is the largest consumer of Colombian cocaine with 250 to 300 tons annually.

The latest successes against the drug cartel, however, are officially attributed to new investigative methods. For Police Chief Serrano, it has so far been difficult to find reliable employees even among friends in the Dijin secret service. "You have teamed up with the devil," he said, referring to the pervasive corruption and cooperation between the police and the Cali cartel. It had helped break up Pablo Escobar's formerly leading Medellin cartel and took its position in 1990.

Serrano fired 300 officers and 2,500 police officers. On the basis of a strategy paper that was leaked to the magazine "Semana", he formed independent units of four young officers each: "A lack of experience is compensated for by the fact that they are neither known nor integrated into the bribery network. Nor does it paralyze the fear of bomb attacks the drug mafia on family members. " The arrest of the drug lords was followed by a government crisis: Santiago Medina, treasurer of the election campaign of President Ernesto Samper, who has been in office since August 1994, was arrested. A front company belonging to the "Snow Kings" supported the election of Sampers with a check for $ 48,000.

Such rumors were already circulating after his election victory, although Samper barely survived an attack by the Cali cartel. In his inaugural address, he declared war on the drug mafia, but also called for action by consumer countries.

Treasurer Medina claims to have accepted the money "on instructions from Sampers," as it is called. The Minister of Transport was responsible for the donations of the "Narcos", as the members of the Cali cartel are called, and ten more politicians are said to have known about them. The opposition doesn't believe in an investigation: the Liberals Sampers have a majority in parliament. And "similar investigations against former presidents have come to no result". Defense Minister Botero stepped down to "prove with all his might the innocence of myself and the president in the drug scandal".

As early as 1984, Pablo Escobar, head of the MedellÞn cartel, was negotiating with the government about a possible extradition to the USA: "Better a grave in Colombia than a cell in the USA." He and his second husband, Ochoa, were shot and the sales manager Lehder is serving a life sentence in the USA. The collapse of their cartel led to the rise of the Cali cartel. Its hour now seems to have struck. Even if the police chief Serrano, who was sent to Washington, proclaims that "Colombia's big drug rings are a thing of the past", it is not to be thought of too much.

According to German investigators, drug cartels are neither centrally controlled nor hierarchically structured. New ones have also grown up: the Bogotá and TolÞma cartels, the group in the province of Valle and the coastal cartel. Worldwide demand is unbroken. How many tons of "snow" the Eastern European markets will absorb is unknown. This is where the Peru Connection leads. So far, Peru’s coca dealers have been delivering cocaine paste to Colombia for refining. They now have their own laboratories - and switch to opium. Made into heroin, it makes four times more profit than cocaine.