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The Colombian Cartels Essay


In 1970’s and 1980’s, violence, corruption and intimidation characterized the Colombian political system. This phase marked the reign of Medellin cartel and Cali cartel. Similar to other criminal groups, these cartels used violence to settle disputes through intimidating law enforcers and public officials (Allum and Renate 90). Leaders of these cartels also bribed officials so that they could cover them after engaging in criminal activities.

The chief members of the Medellin cartel included Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder and Ochoa (Skidmore and Peter Modern 216). On the other hand, Santacruz Londono and the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers made up the Cali cartel. Rodriguez was the leader of the Cali cartel while Escobar headed the Medellin cartel (Dhywood 16). These two leaders led their groups through violence, corruption and intimidation while carrying out drug deals

In 1984, the two cartels formed an alliance and a private army to fight kidnappers who went for rich drug dealers (Allum and Renate 89). The army was so brutal that kidnappers had no option, but to stay away from them. At that time, Escobar operated smoothly since he was a member of the Congress (Dhywood 17). In 1985, Justice Rodrigo forwarded the motion on expulsion of Escobar from congress. Some days later, the police raided Escobar’s hiding place and seized vast tons of cocaine.

After the raid, some cartel members travelled to Panama for negotiations with government officials. Surprisingly, Escobar offered to clear all the foreign debts held by the government, but his offer became rejected. As a result, Escobar declared a war over the government. Rodrigo, who was the Justice Minister, and other government officials who resisted the demands of Escobar became killed (Dhywood 17).

At that time, corruption and violence symbolized Escobar’s conduct in government. Escobar became selected when Gonzalo Gacha, a member of the Medellin cartel directed five city governments and mayoral elections in Madgdalena as well as the police force in Pacho, in 1988 (Allum and Renate 88). Pablo Escobar became elected as a substitute member of the city council in Medellin (Allum and Renate 88).

Thus, both direct and indirect power allowed Escobar to use violence in running Medellin town and its environs. He was ready to kill anyone, or bribe for the sake of his drug business. He bribed various law enforcers and killed people like Rodrigo, who seemed to obstruct his activities. He also used violence to intimidate law enforcers and the public.

Besides, Medellin had policies that made Escobar work with utter impunity (Allum and Renate 90). The cartel had a slogan that made the public aware that any attempt to deter their criminal activities would result in violence actions (Mandel 74).

In 1985, some guerillas that got finance from the drug lords captured the Columbian Supreme Court (Dhywood 17). The ensuing military action led to over a hundred losses of lives, including 11 judges who supported expulsion of cartels. Also, this operation led to destruction of all files with information about the cartels. The country went through moments of violence as Escobar adopted narco-terrorism to enforce his rule on the nation (Chepesiuk 256).

The Medellin cartel mainly relied on violent activities for the success of its operations, while the Cali cartel preferred a more subtle strategy of corruption and bribery (Dhywood 17). The Cali cartel sought political assimilation in the civil society using bribery and funding elections since violence was apt to alienate societies. Gilberto, a key member of the Cali cartel explains how they used to buy judges and not kill them (Allum and Renate 89).

As a result, this cartel could control the government during its operations. For instance, the cartel could influence the government to allow its leaders to run from prisons and influence the congressional vote on asset seizure legislation, irrespective of disregard from the United States (Allum and Renate 89). The drug lords of the Cali cartel did not kill government officials like the Medellin cartel.

By early 1990’s, the cartel owned about 80% of the cocaine market (Chepesiuk 255). The non-violent approach, used by the Cali cartel, assisted in developing expansive distributive channels right beneath the United States law enforcement arm. Although the law enforcement became aware of the activities of the cartel in 1980’s, the authorities could not interrupt the gang.

The cartel functioned in a way similar to a terrorist group. Although its acquaintances were ready to go to detention, they feared what could ensue if they disclosed any information (Chepesiuk 255). The only thing that was certain was that the cartel would look after their families if they went to prison.

In conclusion, violence, corruption and intimidation characterized the Colombian political system during the reign of Medellin cartel and Cali cartel. The Medellin cartel mainly relied on violent activities for the success of its operations, while the Cali cartel preferred a more subtle strategy of corruption and bribery.

Escobar used violence to intimidate law enforcers and the public who opposed activities of the Medellin cartel. On the other hand, Cali cartel used non-violent approaches of corruption and bribery. Thus, the Colombian political system became influenced by activities of these two groups.

Works Cited

Allum, Felia and Renate Siebert. Organized Crime and the Challenge to Democracy, London, England: Routledge, 2012. Print.

Chepesiuk, Ron. The Bullet or the Bribe: Taking down Colombia’s Cali Drug Cartel. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2003. Print.

Dhywood, Jeffrey. World War-D: The Case Against Prohibitionism: A Roadmap to Controlled Re-legalization. Calaveras, Columbia: Columbia Communications Inc, 2011. Print.

Mandel, Robert. Dark Logic: Transnational Criminal tactics and Global Security. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Security Studies, 2011. Print.

Skidmore, Thomas and Peter Smith. Modern Latin America. 7th ed. 2010. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. Print.

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