The Ochoa Brothers
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.)
August 20, 1986
Edition: THE BATON ROUGE STATE TIMES
U.S. MIDDLE DISTRICT JORGE OCHOA VASQUEZ LUIS CARLOS QUINTERO CRUZ JOSE RENTERIA CAMPO PABLO
(PABLITO) ESCOBAR GAVIRIA RAFAEL (RAFFA) CARDONA SALAZAR
Ochoa's release blasted * * * Action in Colombia angers U.S. official
Author: EDWARD PRATT
Years of investigations and the murder of drug informant Adler "Barry" Seal "has been for
nothing," an angry Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Gregorie said Tuesday after receiving
confirmation that drug smuggler Jorge Ochoa-Vasquez had been released from a jail in
Gregorie said a Colombian judge had released Ochoa, reputed to be one of the major drug
traffickers in the world, from jail despite efforts by Gregorie's office in Miami to
extradite him to face narcotics smuggling charges.
"He's just gone, goodbye. It's unbelievable," Gregorie said. "They just let him walk out of
"For the first time we had the head of cocaine operation and they just let him walk out...
The whole process is a waste of time," Gregorie said.
Federal authorities in Baton Rouge are attempting to get Ochoa's brother and two other
Colombians here to face charges in connection with the murder of Seal. U.S. Attorney Raymond
Lamonica has said the release of Ochoa could spell trouble for his office in getting the
Colombian government to arrest and hold Ochoa's brother, Fabio, and the two other
Ochoa was freed last Wednesday on parole in Cartagena, Colombia, by a superior customs court
judge. Ochoa was paroled after receiving a suspended sentence and $11,500 fine for illegally
importing fighting bulls.
A Bogota newspaper said Ochoa is supposed to appear before a customs court official every 15
days under the terms of his parole.
"I will be thoroughly shocked if he turns up in 15 days," Gregorie said.
Gregorie called the bullfighting charges "just that, a bunch of bull." He said those charges
were trumped up against Ochoa after the United States had sought his extradition from
Madrid, Spain, in 1984.
Spanish authorities arrested Ochoa based on a request from the U.S. government. Ochoa and at
least two other men, reputed to be members of a major drug-running cartel, had been indicted
on drug smuggling charges reached mainly on the testimony of Seal, a drug smuggler turned
"They just dreamed up those bullfighting charges," Gregorie said.
"When they (Colombian authorities) saw that it wasn't sufficient to have him extradited,
they placed narcotics charges on him," Gregorie said. "But when he was brought back to
Colombia he was not charged with any of the narcotics charges."
According to Gregorie, the judge in the case said he did not know there were provisional
arrest warrants from the United States for Ochoa's detention.
"I can't for the life of me believe that. There's just no way the judge could not know
that," Gregorie said.
Federal authorities in Baton Rouge are seeking Ochoa's brother, Fabio, and two other
Colombians in connection with the Feb. 19 machine-gun slaying of Seal. Jorge Ochoa-Vasquez
has been sought on federal charges in Florida and federal authorities there have sought his
extradition first from Spain and more recently from Colombia.
Seal's testimony two years ago lead to drug smuggling indictments charging Ochoa and others
with conspiracy to import cocaine from Colombia to the U.S. and with "being involved in a
continuing criminal enterprise."
Ochoa was extradited to his native Colombia last month. The U.S. government had attempted
for almost two years to extradite him from Spain. The Spanish government had arrested Ochoa
in November of 1984 at the request of the U.S. government. The Colombian extradition request
was made a year later.
In Colombia, Ochoa was wanted charged with illegally trying to import fighting bulls.
It was reported last week that a customs judge in the city of Cartagena gave Ochoa a
20-month suspended sentence on the charge of dealing in contraband and freed him with the
payment of a fine. We did not know that they had released him until Saturday," Gregorie
said. "This happened last Wednesday.
"We expected the Colombian government would honor our request to hold him. That didn't
happen. The ministry of justice promised us they would honor the extradition order. They
apparently ignored it," Gregorie said.
"This is a major setback in efforts to stop the flow of drugs in the United States,"
Federal officials have said that Seal's life was placed in danger after the indictment of
Ochoa and that the danger level soared after Ochoa was arrested in Madrid, Spain.
Seal was killed Feb. 19 while he sat in his car in the parking lot of the Salvation Army
Community Treatment Center. He was shot several times at close range by armed men with
Four men face a Jan. 12, 1987 trial date in state district court in connection with the
murder of Seal. They are Luis Carlos Quintero-Cruz, Jose Renteria-Campo, Miguel Velez and
Bernardo Antonio Vasquez. Conviction carries a death sentence or life imprisonment without
Ochoa, Fabio and two other men also were indicted last month by a federal grand jury here in
connection with Seal's killing.
Fabio Ochoa, Pablo "Pablito" Escobar-Gaviria and Rafael "Raffa" Cardona-Salazar are charged
with obstruction of justice, causing interstate travel to commit murder and conspiracy to
violate the civil rights of Seal.
The three are Colombian citizens and "provisional arrests warrants" have been sent to the
Colombian government for their apprehension, Lamonica said Monday.
"We have asked them to go into the hills" to arrest the three Colombians.
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.)
October 15, 2000
Edition: The Baton Rouge Sunday Advocate
Page: 7 B
Crime Communications History Drug
PBS series resurrects drug-trafficking role of slain BR pilot
Author: BRUCE SCHULTZ
A two-part series on the Public Broadcasting System about the history of the U.S. war on
drugs re-examines the role of Baton Rouge pilot Barry Seal, who smuggled cocaine for top
members of the Colombian cartel. The broadcast includes interviews with two of the cartel
members, the Ochoa brothers, who deny any role in Seal's death in 1986 in the front lot of
the Salvation Army Community Treatment Center on Airline Highway.
The interviews about Seal were in the first part of the series, which aired Oct. 9 on the
show "Frontline." The second part will be shown at 8 p.m. Monday on WLPB.
Producer of the program, Martin Smith of New York, interviewed two of the three Ochoa
brothers for the nationwide broadcast.
He said he lucked into meeting the Ochoas after a Colombian reporter told him about an
equestrian school near Medellin that might be owned by the Ochoa family. Smith said he
signed up for riding lessons that lasted several hours.
"We came back to the ranch, and there was Juan-David Ochoa," Smith said.
Smith said he introduced himself and was upfront from the beginning with the Ochoas about
his intent to interview key figures in the cartel.
"I went with a camera around my neck and a notebook in my pocket," he said.
They insisted they had been out of the drug business since 1991 when they surrendered to
Colombian authorities and served five-year prison sentences, he said.
The arrest of younger brother, Fabio Ochoa, in October 1999 in Colombia on drug charges may
have prompted the two older brothers to go on camera, Smith said. Fabio Ochoa was not
interviewed, he said.
Smith questioned Jorge Ochoa and Juan-David Ochoa about the murder of Barry Seal. It was the
first time that either man had given an in-depth interview, Smith said. Smith said the
atmosphere became frosty when he asked them about Seal.
"It was quite uncomfortable, frankly," he said. "We didn't talk about it at great length
because they weren't very interested in it."In the broadcast, Smith asked Jorge Ochoa who
killed Barry Seal, and the Colombian replied that he didn't know, without saying anything
Smith said Jorge Ochoa, in an interview not included in the broadcast or on the "Frontline"
Web page, blamed Seal's slaying on fellow cartel member Pablo Escobar, who was killed in
December 1993 in Colombia by authorities.
Seal's brother, Baton Rouge pilot Ben Seal, said he didn't see the broadcast, but he said it
didn't surprise him that the Ochoas would deny any complicity in the February 1986
"Of course, they're going to deny it," Ben Seal said. "Wouldn't you if you had a murder
Jorge Ochoa, when asked by "Frontline" if he got to know any of the smuggling pilots,
replied, "I didn't know any of them. I didn't personally meet any pilots." He also said in
the interview that he never even talked with Seal although he said Seal had flown drugs for
In the "Frontline" interview, Juan-David Ochoa described Seal as a pilot who hauled cocaine
for his brother Jorge:"But for my own cocaine, I never had any accounts with Barry Seal. I
only met him once. I saw him only once in my lifetime. ... When we were in Panama, he came
to Panama to talk to Jorge my brother, with Pablo Escobar and with Gonzalo Rodriguez. And I
saw him perhaps three to five minutes. That was the only time in my life I met him. I never
talked to him then or anything ... ."
In a separate "Frontline" interview, cartel pilot Fernando Arenas said Seal was a trusted,
close friend of the Ochoas who felt betrayed upon learning he was working with U.S.
authorities to prosecute them. Arenas said in the interview that it was clear to him that
the Ochoas arranged Seal' s murder:
"The Ochoas really trusted this guy (Seal) with everything. He was in Colombia. He knew the
families. He was treated like another part of the family, another member of the family ...
Jorge especially had ... a good time with him. He thought about him as an older brother,
something like that. He really trusted this guy. He really liked this guy.
"So feeling betrayed in that way was a huge offense for him. So of course he had to go out
... . Fabio wanted to do it personally. Jorge convinced him not to, because of the risk
involved. But Fabio really wanted to do it personally ... . After what happened with Barry
Seal, the Nicaraguans got too nervous about what we were doing there ... and said, 'We need
that cocaine out of here as soon as you can.' So we had to take that cocaine out."
Al Winters, assistant U.S. attorney in New Orleans, investigated the Seal murder, resulting
in a July 1986 federal grand jury indictment of Fabio Ochoa, Escobar and Rafael Cardona
Salazar. Federal criminal court records in Baton Rouge show the indictment against Fabio
Ochoa remains open, but charges were dropped against Escobar and Salazar after both men were
killed by Colombian authorities.
Winters said Fabio Ochoa can't be brought to the United States for his alleged role in
plotting the Seal murder because crimes committed before 1997 cannot be used by Colombian
authorities to extradite a defendant to the United States.
The drug smuggler originally hired to kill Seal, Max Mermelstein, was the subject of a book
"The Man Who Made It Snow." He claims that he was hired by Salazar to kill Seal at the
behest of Fabio Ochoa and Pablo Escobar for $500,000. Mermelstein's book said he visited
Baton Rouge three times to scout the city for possible locations to kill Seal, but he failed
to carry out the contract. A group of Colombians was hired to carry out the job.
Federal authorities in Florida considered Seal to be one of the most significant federal
witnesses against the cartel. A federal judge in Florida, who sentenced Seal in a smuggling
case there, allowed him to remain free.
However, U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola of Baton Rouge, when sentencing Seal on a
separate drug-trafficking charge, refused to allow Seal to go free, insisting that the
federal witness must serve at least six months at a Baton Rouge Salvation Army halfway
house. Seal had refused to enroll in the federal witness protection program because of the
complications involved in that system.
Polozola also refused to allow Seal to carry a weapon, and he forbade any bodyguards from
The conspiracy to kill Seal began on Nov. 15, 1984, the same day that Jorge Ochoa was
arrested in Spain, according to the federal indictment against Fabio Ochoa.
Seal had signed an affidavit to enable Spanish authorities to extradite Jorge Ochoa to the
United States to face the Florida drug-trafficking charges, according to Baton Rouge lawyer
Lewis Unglesby, who represented Seal.
That was the reason behind the contract to kill Seal, Unglesby explained.
Prem Burns, assistant district attorney in East Baton Rouge Parish who prosecuted Seal's
"So when Barry Seal was killed, Spain dropped the extradition proceedings, and Jorge went
back to Colombia," Burns said.
Unglesby said it was common knowledge that Seal's life was in danger.
"No one will dispute that there was a contract out for Barry Seal," Unglesby said. "That was
well-known by the CIA and DEA, and that was revealed to Polozola."Unglesby said he believes
his client's murder marked the day the United States threw in the towel on the drug war. He
said the government could not or would not protect the key witness in what could have been
the pivotal case against top cartel members, one of whom was on the verge of extradition.
"We just conceded defeat," Unglesby said. "They had the best chance ever of breaking up the
cartel. He (Seal) was at the epicenter of the whole deal."Seal's cooperation with the
government went beyond assisting authorities make a case against the drug cartel. His
efforts also were used by the White House to support aid for the Contras in resistance of
the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
Photographs secretly taken of Seal's landing in Nicaragua in 1984 were used by President
Reagan as evidence that Sandinistas were involved in drug trafficking. The photographs,
taken with a camera installed by the CIA in Seal's C-130 cargo plane, showed a Nicaraguan
official with Seal and cartel member Pablo Escobar loading cocaine onto Seal's aircraft.
Oliver North, senior member of the National Security Council under Reagan, told "Frontline"
he wasn't the source of a leak to the Washington Times about Seal's undercover work in
North said the only individuals he told about the Seal operation were members of Congress,
and he said the allegation that he was the source was unfair and "based on erroneous
reporting and God only knows how many sources."
"It was certainly not to our advantage to have that story leaked before the operation could
be fully conducted," he told interviewers.
Seal was shot to death Feb. 19, 1986, with a silenced machine gun as he parked his car in
the front lot of the Salvation Army Community Treatment Center on Airline Highway.
Four Colombians were caught before they could leave the United States. Three of them, Miguel
"The Chin" Velez, Bernardo Antonio Vasquez and Carlos Quintero-Cruz, were convicted of
first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Mermelstein was a key witness for the
prosecution. The fourth man was prosecuted in Florida on federal drug-trafficking charges.
State prosecutor Burns said all appeals in the case were finally completed last year, 13
years after the trial. She said the three men still insist on their innocence.
Complete transcripts of the interviews and additional information on the drug wars can be
found on the "Frontline" Web site http//:www.frontline.org.
B.W. photo of Baton Rouge pilot Barry Seal (Advocate file photo)
Miami Herald, The (FL)
December 19, 1990
COLOMBIA DRUG CARTEL FIRST OCHOA AGE BIOGRAPHY US RELATION
REPUTED CARTEL KINGPIN SURRENDERS IN COLOMBIA
Author: ANDRES OPPENHEIMER Herald Staff Writer
Fabio Ochoa Vasquez, reputedly one of the world's biggest
drug traffickers, turned himself in to Colombian authorities Tuesday, hours after the
Colombian government issued a decree promising that cocaine barons who surrender will not be
extradited to the United States.
Ochoa's surrender marks the first time that a major Medellin Cartel boss has turned himself
in. It is also a sign that the 16-month-old war on drugs may be winding down as a result of
a de-facto agreement between the Colombian government and the cocaine bosses -- a deal U.S.
officials had long opposed.
On Monday, President Cesar Gaviria issued decrees promising that drug barons who surrender
will not be extradited to the United States; won't receive sentences greater than 30 years
in prison, and will be kept at special prisons regularly monitored by human rights
"The government is very satisfied that decree 2047 is having all the effects it should have
in Colombian life," Gaviria said, speaking over the Caracol radio network, after the
surrender was announced.
Four mid-level drug traffickers surrendered during the past month, and as many as three
hundred are expected to turn themselves in following the latest decrees, officials said.
Most face no charges in Colombia and may face short sentences once they confess their
Ochoa Vasquez, at 33 the youngest member of the Ochoa clan, is wanted for extradition to the
United States for drug trafficking and involvement in the 1986 killing of Adler "Barry"
Seal, a Drug Enforcement Administration informant. But he is not believed to face charges in
Colombia, where he is to be judged, officials said late Tuesday.
Under the new government decrees, drug barons who want to benefit from the government's
concessions are only required to confess to one crime that leads to a trial and a sentence.
The decrees were issued after several weeks of negotiations between a group of four
prominent Colombians -- including former Presidents Misael Pastrana and Alfonso Lopez
Michelsen -- and the drug barons' attorneys.
Ochoa Vasquez's surrender was negotiated in the last few weeks. Since September, when the
government issued its first decree directed to traffickers and other violent groups in
Colombia, Ochoa sent two letters asking for further explanation of various details of the
Lawyers for the cartel had said the September decree was not explicit enough. They demanded
-- and later obtained -- a change in the clause that required a full confession of all
crimes in order to guarantee no extradition.
Ochoa walked into a church in Caldas, a small town 12 miles south of Medellin, at noon
Tuesday, accompanied by his mother and two sisters, and turned himself in to a judge from
Criminal Instruction Unit.
After speaking to judges of the unit, he was transferred to the high security jail in the
Medellin suburb of Itagui. The Ochoa family filmed the entire surrender of Fabio and passed
them on to local television news teams.
"My brother surrendered to the Colombian justice system
because he believes in it, and wants to benefit from the decrees issued by the government,"
a woman who identified herself as Ochoa Vasquez's sister told the Colombian radio network
In a communique read by family members, Ochoa said: "I hope this contributes in the best way
to peace and understanding in Colombia."
In Washington, U.S. officials tried to make the best of the latest developments. Before
Gaviria's inauguration earlier this year, U.S. officials had vigorously opposed any
negotiations with the drug traffickers, especially if they could result in an end of
extraditions to the United States
"We think it's promising," a State Department official said Tuesday, referring to the
surrender of Ochoa Vasquez. "This is the most significant person to surrender under the
state of siege regulations."
The drug barons' fight against extradition had long been the centerpiece of their war on the
government, to the point that they signed all their statements with the slogan: "We prefer a
tomb in Colombia rather than a jail in the United States."
In the past, major Colombian drug traffickers have fled or bribed their way out of Colombian
Many Colombian and U.S. drug experts see Ochoa Vasquez's surrender as an indication that
both the Colombian government and the drug smugglers are desperately seeking to end the 16-
month-old war on drugs.
The Medellin Cartel has been blamed for killing 550 Colombians since the government and
traffickers declared war in August 1989. Government forces, in turn, have dealt heavy blows
to the cartel, including the killing a year ago of top cartel boss Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez
Gacha and the murder earlier this year of Gustavo Gaviria, the long-time head of the
cartel's business operations.
But the Medellin Cartel's most powerful and violent leader, Pablo Escobar Gaviria, remains
at large, and it is unclear whether he plans to surrender. Unlike Ochoa Vasquez, Escobar is
wanted for numerous terrorist acts in Colombia, and would face severe penalties there.
Ochoa Vasquez and his brothers -- Jorge Luis and Juan David -- are believed to have been
reluctant followers of Escobar's campaign of terror in recent months, or may have actually
The Ochoa clan comes from a high-class ranchers' background, and has long prided itself on
grooming some of Colombia's finest thoroughbred horses. While sharing the Medellin Cartel's
leadership with Escobar, they often sought to distance themselves from some of Escobar's
"Every time there was a major assassination in Colombia, they sent the word out that they
weren't behind it," said Maria Jimena Duzan, an investigative reporter with the daily El
Espectador who is writing a book about Colombia's drug wars.
"When El Espectador's publisher Guillermo Cano was killed, they sent an emissary to my home
to say they didn't have anything to do with it," Duzan said. "They said they were very upset
over that murder, because they knew it would only mean trouble for them."
FABIO OCHOA VASQUEZ
* BORN: May 11, 1957.
* PERSONAL: Known as "Fabito" or "Little Fabio"; son of Fabio Ochoa Restrepo and youngest of
the three Ochoa brothers, a ruling clan among Colombia's Medellin cocaine cartel; sent to
Miami in 1978 to run the family's distribution networks after brother Jorge was nearly
arrested at Dadeland Mall; reportedly took college courses in the South Florida area;
allegedly ran the Ochoa family's drug operations while Jorge was imprisoned in Spain,
1984-1986. Amateur bullfighter; five feet five inches tall, 155 pounds.
* CRIMINAL HISTORY: 1986, indicted in Baton Rouge for plotting the murder of DEA informant
Adler "Barry" Seal; 1986, indicted in Miami with cartel leadership -- Jorge Ochoa, Pablo
Escobar Gaviria, Jose Rodriguez Gacha, Carlos Lehder Rivas -- for allegedly smuggling 19
tons of cocaine in 1981, fugitive
warrant issued; 1988, indicted in Miami with cartel leadership for allegedly paying $4.6
million in bribes to Gen. Manuel Noriega for protection and money laundering; 1989, indicted
in Jacksonville with cartel leadership for allegedly smuggling 20 tons of cocaine,
1974-1985; 1990, named by U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh as third most-wanted
Colombian trafficker on U.S. extradition list after Escobar and Jorge Ochoa. Mentioned in
hundreds of DEA cases; allegedly operated a cocaine factory producing 3,000 kilos a week;
accompanied by up to 20 bodyguards.
* QUOTE: "He is a very, very large fish," said Thomas V. Cash, special agent in charge of
the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Miami. "Jorge Ochoa, Juan David Ochoa and Fabio
Ochoa are the who's who of the cocaine world."
Herald staff writer Chris Marquis in Washington and special correspondent Ana Arana in
Bogota contributed to this report.
photo: Fabio OCHOA
see end of text for biography box
Copyright (c) 1990 The Miami Herald
Record Number: 9003240184
SEPTEMBER 3, 1989
Edition: 2 STAR
Undercurrent of tension holds Colombia hostage
Drug lords terrorize Medellin
Author: ANA PUGAStaff
Dateline: MEDELLIN, Colombia
MEDELLIN, Colombia - Nestled in the steep mountains of central Colombia, this metropolis of
2 million is blessed with a temperate climate and a friendly populace, but cursed with some
of the world's most vicious criminals.
Murders in Medellin average 17 per day, one of the highest rates anywhere. The city's drug
lords, and the drug barons in the city of Cali, supply an estimated 80 percent of the
cocaine consumed in the United States.
Late last month, Colombia's narcotics war erupted when drug traffickers murdered the
front-running candidate in next year's presidential election. The government struck back by
raiding the drug barons' mansions and country estates, confiscating their possessions,
rounding up more than 11,000 people and promising to extradite traffickers wanted in the
Then the drug barons, calling themselves the Extraditables because of their fear of trial in
U.S. courts, declared ``total war'' on Colombia's judges, politicians and journalists.
Last week an undercurrent of terror ran through Medellin. At night the residents scurried
inside to meet a 10 p.m. curfew. During the day they faced random bomb explosions that have
injured at least a dozen people. Bomb threats and rumors ran rife.
Despite the tense atmosphere, three professionals - a judicial worker, the province's
governor and a newspaper editor - agreed to discuss the dangers they confront doing their
jobs in Medellin. The judicial worker asked that his name not be used, saying:
``Judges have been our martyrs. I don't want to be a martyr. Please don't identify me.'' The
Roberto Rodriguez - a pseudonym - is not a judge, but he heads a chapter of a national
judges association that has called for more government protection of judges. That makes him
a target of the drug barons.
Colombian drug lords frequently murder judges who threaten to send them to jail. Since the
beginning of the decade, U.S. officials said, about 270 Colombian court officials have been
Last month, the drug traffickers threatened to kill 10 judges for every drug baron who is
extradited to the United States. Last week, Eduardo Martinez Romero, who has been indicted
in Atlanta in a $1.2 billion money-laundering operation linked to the Medellin cartel, was
notified of his extradition but given a short time to appeal, Colombian officials said.
Judges, who also serve as state prosecutors here, are resisting the drug traffickers with a
wave of strikes and resignations. More than 100 judges have resigned in the days since the
drug barons vowed to retaliate against the government.
Rodriguez said the drug traffickers have attacked him twice. Last November he was warned.
Four men hustled him into a car, blindfolded him and took him on a long drive, he said,
during which they warned him that for his health it might be best to quit his job.
Last week three men in leather jackets followed Rodriguez and a colleague from the door of
his office to a bus stop. As one of the men, staring at Rodriguez, reached into his jacket
as if to pull out a gun, Rodriguez's colleague suddenly threw her arms around him and began
``She saved my life,'' Rodriguez said. ``I am sure that they meant to kill me. But she
scared them off.''
Many judges have not been so lucky. From 1984 to 1987, 13 members of the Supreme Court were
slain. Former Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla was assassinated in a street attack in
1984. The current justice minister, Monica de Greiff, has been threatened with death because
of her support for extradition.
Colombian drug traffickers dread deportation for trial to the United States because of the
reputation of U.S. judges to sentence traffickers to long prison terms, law enforcement
Only eight of Medellin's 500 judges will handle drug cases, Rodriguez said, less than half
the number needed. And one of the eight resigned last week, after death threats because of
his investigation into the violent death of a governor.
On the floor of the justice ministry where the narcotics judges' offices are located, two
guards armed with Uzi machine pistols follow visitors everywhere. But Rodriguez said the
protection is not enough.
``Banks and liquor stores have better security than judges,'' he said. As he spoke, members
of his staff climbed out a window onto the roof next door to investigate the sound of a
Rodriguez ignored the disturbance.
``Every day my wife tells me to quit,'' he said. ``It's not that I fancy myself the great
savior of Colombia. But I have to put in my little grain of sand.'' The governor
Gov. Helena Herran de Montoya explains that she does not have an official car because the
last one was blown up with her predecessor inside.
The 49-year-old lawyer was appointed last month to succeed Gov. Antonio Roldan Betancur, who
was killed July 4 by a bomb that exploded in his car. He had publicly denounced drug
``I am not a person of great bravery,'' Montoya said. ``But we have to keep fighting. I do
not feel alone in this.''
Montoya exudes caution. She dresses in the corporate woman's uniform: skirt suit, pearls,
pumps. Understandably, she meticulously phrases responses and begs that reporters stick to
her exact words.
Asked if drug traffickers could destroy what democracy exists in Medellin's province of
Antioquia, Montoya said, ``I don't know. I would hope that even the violent people will
reflect and that great destruction would be avoided.''
As a presidential appointee, however, Montoya is forced to uphold a tough stance that has
ruled out negotiations with drug smugglers. President Virgilio Barco last week refused
overtures from the father of three alleged drug traffickers facing extradition to the United
States for trial. Fabio Ochoa wrote to the president offering to negotiate ``a country free
of drug trafficking'' in exchange for a one-time amnesty for all drug traffickers.
Barco rejected the offer.
Montoya, a staunch Barco ally, said she did not understand the philosophy behind the
president's stance. ``But the president took these steps after serious attacks on society,''
Montoya's view is opposed by Medellin's powerful mayor, Juan Gomez Martinez, who has called
for negotiations with the drug barons. The drug barons have divided the country's
politicians and ``made communication difficult,'' Montoya said.
Further complicating the situation is next year's presidential election. Gomez is running
for president as a member of a party opposing Barco.
``I think his call for negotiations is part of an opposition strategy,'' Montoya said of
Gomez denies the charge. The mayor has also called for more army protection for Medellin,
3,000 troops instead of the current 100 - a move Montoya says is not necessary.
``We can't just fill the streets with police and army. In a democracy the average citizen is
safe,'' said Montoya. But until that day comes to Medellin, Montoya admits, she does not
feel safe either.
``We are all frightened, sometimes more, sometimes less,'' she said. ``What is important is
that we do not let fear paralyze us.'' The journalist
The city editor of El Mundo, Jairo Palacio, is far from paralyzed. But he is thinking of
sending his 19-month-old daughter abroad for safety's sake.
As the 32-year-old journalist designed newspaper pages one night last week, he glanced up at
the newsroom's glass windows.
``We've hired armed security guards. But if someone wanted to throw a bomb in here it would
be no problem,'' Palacio said. ``If they did decide to attack someone we don't know who it
could be. It could be me, my family, or somebody else.''
Lately, Palacio, a thin, bespectacled man, says he has spent his evenings checking out the
rumors that plague Medellin. This evening he checked out one caller's incorrect tip that a
local factory manager has been killed and dismissed another's theory that the drug barons
have poisoned the water supply.
``It's never been this bad before. People were always nervous about the drug traffickers.
But they didn't feel as personally threatened. Now they've said `total war,''' Palacio said.
``Everyone is wondering where the next bomb is going to explode.''
On the streets, Palacio said, he watches carefully for ``sicarios'', hired killers for drug
barons. Two ``sicarios'' usually approach on a motorcycle. As soon as the one riding in back
shoots his victim, the driver pulls away. Few of the killers are ever caught.
``The sicarios are usually well-dressed, because they get lots of cash for their murders.
And they always travel in pairs,'' Palacio said. ``Whenever I see a pair of well-dressed
guys with a mean stare on a motorcycle, I get nervous.''
Palacio recalls the murder of Bogota journalist Guillermo Cano, who frequently used his
column to attack the drug barons. On Dec. 16, 1986, Cano left his office as usual and got in
his Subaru compact car. As he sat in an evening traffic jam, two ``sicarios'' pulled up on a
motorcycle and sprayed the car with bullets. Cano, 61, died hours later in a Bogota
Cano's murder was one of 38 suspicious deaths of Colombian journalists in the last dozen
years, Palacio said. This year at least one journalist a month was killed in April, May and
June, he said.
El Mundo tries to protect its journalists by not running bylines on articles about drug
traffickers. Reporters are careful not to implicate ``the Mafia,'' as the drug barons are
called here, until they've been convicted.
``I know that the Mafia reads the papers closely because whenever they think we've got
anything wrong they send a letter to complain,'' said Palacio with a wry smile.
Drug traffickers prefer to be portrayed as Robin Hoods who take from the rich and give to
the poor, he said. They love press coverage when they donate lighting for soccer fields, he
said. But they abhor the ruthless criminal image that comes from association with murder,
kidnapping or bombings.
As Palacio pored over the clippings of the news stories that ran the day after Cano's
killing, he pointed out a quote that could stand as a caution to all Colombian journalists.
The night before his murder Cano told a television interviewer: ``Narcotics traffickers pose
a threat that constantly hangs over journalists' heads. I leave here at night and I don't
know what might happen to me.'' Wanted by the U.S.: 12 from Colombia Among the Colombian
drug-trafficking suspects being sought for extradition to the United States are these 12
men, described by Attorney General Dick Thornburgh as the ``dozen most wanted.'' Pablo
Emilio Escobar Gaviria ``The Godfather'' Age: 39 Considered the leader of the Medellin
cartel. Has created good will for the cartel in Medellin by donating money to the poor.
Believed to be worth $2 billion. Indictments: Three in Miami, one in Los Angeles. Jorge Luis
Ochoa Vasquez ``The Fat One'' Age: 40 Considered the No. 2 man in the Medellin cartel, he is
the leader of a group of brothers who belong to the Ochoa family of smugglers. Believed to
be a billionaire. Indictments: Two in Miami. Fabio Ochoa Vasquez Age: 32 A leader of the
Medellin cartel, he was entrusted with cocaine distribution in Miami in the 1970s. Brother
of Jorge Luis Ochoa Vasquez. Indicted in New Orleans in the murder of an informer.
Indictments: Miami, New Orleans. Jaime Raul Orjuela Caballero Age: 46 Among the leaders of
the C ali cartel. Indictment: New York Gilberto Jose Rodriguez Age: 50 Considered the leader
of the Cali cartel. Indictments: New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami. Miguel Angel
Rodriguez Orjuela Age: 45 Considered the No. 2 man in the Cali cartel. Indictm ent: New
Orleans. Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha ``The Mexican'' Age: 42 Considered the No. 3 man in
the Medellin cartel. Indictments: Miami, Detroit. Jose Santacruz Londono Age: 45 Considered
the third-ranking member of the Cali cartel. Indictment: New Yo rk Jose Duarte Acero Age: 37
One of the leading figures in the Medellin cartel, he is believed to have been a gunman
involved in the 1981 abduction and attempted murder of two Drug Enforcement Administration
officers. Indictment: Miami Gerardo Moncada Ag e: 42 A top member of the Medellin cartel
believed to be deeply involved in money laundering. Indictment: Atlanta Juan David Ochoa
Vasquez Age: 41 Older brother and a top lieutenant to Jorge Luis Ochoa Vasquez in the
Medellin cartel. Indictment: Miami Gustavo de Jesus Gaviria Rivero Age: 42 Among the leaders
of the Medellin cartel. Indictment: Miami Sources: The Department of Justice, The New York
Photos: Colombian troops search pedestrians in Medellin (color); Mug: Helena Herran de
Montoya (b/w, p. 26); Mugs: Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria (b/w, p. 26); Jose Gonzalo
Rodriguez Gacha (b/w, p. 26); Guillermo Cano (b/w, p. 26, 3-star edition)
Reuters/United Press International
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.)
January 12, 1988
Edition: THE BATON ROUGE STATE TIMES
Colombian gov't launches probe alleging bribes kept cartel leader from trial in U.S.
Dateline: BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
BOGOTA, Colombia -- The government said it would open a probe today into bribes that
allegedly were paid by the reputed leader of the world's largest drug smuggling cartel to
avoid his extradition to the United States.
Most of the bribes were paid to ensure the reputed cartel leader, billionaire Jorge Luis
Ochoa, was extradited from Spain to Colombia and not the United States, then set free in
Colombia, the Justice Ministry said.
Fabio Ochoa, Jorge Ochoa's brother, and Pablo Escobar were indicted in Baton Rouge in 1986
for conspiring to arrange the murder of drug smuggler and informant Adler "Barry" Seal. U.S.
federal prosecutors used evidence provided by Seal in their attempt to have Jorge Ochoa
extradited to the United States.
Seal -- a cartel smuggler -- was assassinated in February 1986 as Spanish courts
contemplated extraditing Jorge Ochoa from prison in Spain to the United States. According to
the trial of Seal's murderers, the cartel ordered Seal's execution to protect Jorge Ochoa
from extradition and trial in the United States.
Colombian justice officials said they also will try to determine why the list of bribes
remained secret nearly a year after it was discovered. Colombia media reported over the
weekend that the list was found in a raid last February at the home of Mauricio Isaza Ochoa,
one of Ochoa's cousins in Medellin.
Ochoa, 38, was arrested in Spain in 1986 and is wanted in the United States on a federal
indictment charging him with importing 58 tons of cocaine in five years. He has been let out
of Colombian jails twice in the last year.
U.S. officials strongly protested when Ochoa was freed by a judge for the second time last
month, and said the Colombian government had violated its promise to hold Ochoa until he
could be extradited to the United States.
Ochoa and other reputed leaders of the so-called Medellin Cartel were indicted in the United
States in November 1986 on charges of cocaine smuggling. Among those indicted as leaders of
the cartel is Carlos Lehder Rivas, 38, who was extradicted by Colombia to the United States.
Lehder is on trial in Jacksonville, Fla., on a separate 1981 federal indictment charging him
with several counts of drug trafficking.
Federal officials in Miami claim the Medellin Cartel is responsible for up to 80 percent of
all the cocaine that enters the United States.
According to the bribe list, more than $1 million was paid to people in the military, the
Foreign Ministry, the Colombian Congress and presumably to judges to ensure Ochoa's freedom.
Most recipients were not identified on the list or were referred to only by a first name or
Juan Manuel Arias Carrizosa, justice minister at the time the list was found, said in an
interview with the Bogota daily El Tiempo that he knew nothing about the list.
A judge will be appointed to find out why the list was supressed, said Carlos Eduardo
Lozano, the chief of Justice Ministry lawyers, in a broadcast interview with Radio Caracol.
Only six full names were on the list.
Five were lawyers who told El Tiempo they were on the sheet because they were paid for
Copyright 1988 Capital City Press, Baton Rouge, La.
Miami Herald, The (FL)
March 13, 1991
NORIEGA TIES TO SMUGGLER RECOUNTED
Author: DONNA GEHRKE Herald Staff Writer
Manuel Noriega was like a "godfather" to a guns-and-cocaine smuggler who provided the former
Panamanian strongman with connections to the Medellin drug cartel, according to testimony in
federal court Tuesday.
Francisco Rodriguez Milanes, a convicted drug dealer, testified about the special
relationship between Noriega and his alleged crime partner, Cesar Rodriguez, now dead, based
on what indicted co-conspirator, William Saldarriaga, talked about in jail.
Rodriguez Milanes said Saldarriaga described a botched 1986 guns-for-cocaine deal involving
himself, Noriega, Rodriguez, other drug smugglers and the Medellin cartel.
Saldarriaga and co-defendant Brian Davidow are on trial before U.S. District Judge William
Hoeveler in the conspiracy that allegedly involved up to 1,000 M-16 rifles and hundreds of
kilos of cocaine. Noriega goes to trial in June.
Saldarriaga's attorney, Steven Kreisberg, attempted Tuesday to portray Rodriguez Milanes as
a lying snitch.
But the convicted drug dealer stubbornly clung to his version of the Noriega drug conspiracy
that he said Saldarriaga told him while trying to craft a confession to entice prosecutors
into giving him a plea-bargain.
At the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Saldarriaga said Rodriguez was "in charge" of
relaying the weapons to Colombian drug lords, Rodriguez Milanes testified.
"General Noriega provided them in order to make an exchange of cocaine in Colombia."
Rodriguez Milanes told prosecutor Myles Malman: "Cesar Rodriguez was a key to Mr. Noriega.
They were very close . . . like Noriega was sort of like a godfather to him."
Rodriguez took on Saldarriaga as a partner because he had connections to the Ochoa
drug-smuggling family in Medellin, Rodriguez Milanes said. Saldarriaga was married to Marta
Ochoa, a cousin.
Saldarriaga helped buy a yacht named the Krill to transport the guns and cocaine, Rodriguez
But problems soon arose: Only 320 kilos of cocaine were delivered for the guns -- 80 kilos
short of the agreed-upon amount, Rodriguez Milanes said Saldarriaga told him.
Saldarriaga then was forced to telephone the bad news "to a person connected with Noriega,"
Rodriguez Milanes said.
After the botched deal, Rodriguez and another co- conspirator, Ruben Paredes Jr., the son of
a Panamanian general, were murdered in Medellin. Saldarriaga thinks Noriega may have had a
role, Rodriguez Milanes testified.
Colombian police ended up seizing the cocaine-carrying Krill off a Colombian island.
Saldarriaga thinks a brother of Paredes may have tipped off the investigators, Rodriguez
His account supported last week's testimony of Amet Paredes, who admitted the role he and
his late brother played in the drug deal in exchange for a recommendation he not spend more
than 10 years in prison.
Rodriguez Milanes told jurors he didn't talk with Saldarriaga in hopes of making a deal with
"Mr. William was going to be a government witness," Rodriguez Milanes said. "I never
imagined I was going to be here testifying against him. He changed his mind. That's why I'm
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