PICSim 2016



PICSim 2016
Colombian Medellín Cartel
The Colombian Medellín Cartel Crisis
Chair: Sukrit Puri
Colombian Medellín Cartel
The Cartel:
In 1982, Nancy Reagan was on a campaign
ahead … you deserve it” selling well crafted
trip to Oakland, CA where she was asked
straws to consume cocaine. By 1982, there
by a young schoolgirl how to respond if she
was an estimated 10.4 million users of
were ever offered drugs. Mrs Reagan’s
cocaine in the US – predominantly middle
reply was simple: Just say no. This maxim
class Americans, and notably based in
marked the US drug policy throughout the
Miami. The dynamic of drug proliferation
Reagan administration (1981-89) and
into the American populace would change
further into the early 1990s1.
come 1985 when crack was created as a
Of course, while the Reagan
cheap substitute that used cocaine in trace
administration embarked on blanket
amounts in combination with other synthetic
moralizing as its strategy for the War on
substances to create a shorter but more
Drugs, US casual consumption of cocaine
intense high2.
peaked in 1982. In the 1970s, studies
Responding to, and in many ways
started gaining traction speaking to its
fueling, the demand was the cocaine trade
harmlessness as a recreational drug, and
stemming from the region where the cocoa
moreover, the media began glamorizing the
plant is indigenous: the Andes mountainous
drug. While advertising cocaine itself was
areas of South America. In 1982, cocaine
prohibited, advertising cocaine
overtook coffee as the main export of
paraphernalia was not, and plenty of ads
Colombia, amounting to 30% of all
surfaced with enticing slogans such as “go
Colombian exports. And at the heart of the
Colombian Medellín Cartel
drug trade were a number of cartels vying
its founding was simply to ensure competing
for monopoly control of prices and thus
drug lords did not compete each other out of
revenue. The Medellin Cartel was
business, and rather that they might work
responsible for supplying upwards of 80% of
harmoniously to control prices and trade
the United States’ cocaine consumption3.
routes in a manner most beneficial to their
collective bottom line. As a result of its well-
The country of Colombia is divided
managed business operations, the Medellin
into 32 departments, or states – each with a
and Cali cartels came to control 80% of the
Capital District, and run by a governor and
cocaine export out of Colombia. And the
Department Assembly. The department of
several quasi-independent cartels centered
Antioquia lies towards the North of the
in Bogota or the Atlantic coast actually just
country, and its capital is the municipality of
maintained alliances with these cartels, and
Medellin that lies in the center. The Medellin
followed their lead on issues about the drug
Cartel was a cartel of notable drug lords
quantities, transport routes, pricing, etc4.
who based their operations out of the
Through the 1970s, drug trafficking
municipality of Medellin. It would, mostly,
with the cartel that carried out its operations
became a serious source of income for drug
out of the town of Cali in Southern
lords in South America, who would source
the paste from the cocoa plant from Peru
and Bolivia. By the late 1970s, the
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact starting
Colombian drug lords would import
date of the Medellin cartel. It was estimated
hundreds of thousands of tons of raw
to have started between 1975-78 but really
material from Peru and Bolivia, before
gathered steam by 1981. The logic behind
Colombian Medellín Cartel
processing it and shipping it to the US, all
Medellin cartel would allow the drug lords to
serving to inflate the narco-economy.
buy out an estimated million hectares of
farmland for cocaine cultivation, and created
With the aim to maximize export
a class of narco-bourgeoisie.
profits while reducing risk to each
participant in the drug trade, the drug lords
decided to collude to form the Medellin
Cartel. The cartel included co-financing and
Pablo Escobar Gavaria is known as the
co-issuing schemes to create
Robin Hood of Medellin. But he might
interdependence and thus to alleviate
equally be remembered as the scourge of
animosity between drug lords. The cartel’s
Medellin, who brought gang violence and
participants shared financial advisors and
danger to the society at large. But while
lawyers and security operatives too, along
history may decide how to view the
with trafficking assets like planes, cocaine
polarizing figure of Pablo Escobar, it is
laboratories, and submarines5.
incontrovertible that at his peak, he was one
of the 10 richest men in the world, and had
The founding members of the
a net worth of USD 30 billion – not including
Medellin Cartel were, most notably, Pablo
the stacks of cash that he buried around the
Escobar Gavaria, the Ochoa Vasquez
Colombian countryside as a failsafe6.
brothers – Jorge Luis, Juan David, and
Fabio – and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez
Unlike the other narco-bourgeoisie who
Gacha, the pig farmer from Mexico. At its
allied with him, Pablo – often called Don
peak, the cartel would bring in annual
Pablo, or El Patrón (the boss) – hailed from
revenues of USD 6 billion, out of which USD
4 billion was profit. The success of the
Colombian Medellín Cartel
more modest beginnings. Pablo’s partners,
formidable drug lord, and came to run the
the Ochoa brothers, were born into the
Medellin Cartel due to his strong yet earthy
family of the notable Fabio Ochoa Restrepo
personality. But Pablo never forgot his
in the cattle breeding and restaurant
roots, investing heavily back into the
businesses. Jorge Luis Ochoa led his family
countryside: conspicuously into social
business to enter the narcotics business in
development projects such as housing for
the mid-1970s. Other notable narco-
the poor and water wells.
bourgeoisie included Colombia’s oldest
families with strong lineages. The reason
Muerte a secuestradores:
was that the people with noble family
heritage would typically have the
connections into the US to begin successful
The newfound wealth that came to these
drug trafficking7.
drug barons also brought with it new kinds
of problems. Leftist guerilla forces began
On the other hand, Pablo Escobar
looting these drug barons’ dens for drug
came from low socioeconomic
wealth that they hoped to distribute to the
backgrounds. He was vehemently
peasantry in hopes of spurring a revolution.
nationalistic and anti-American given the
Other guerilla groups would kidnap family
class struggle that set the context for his
members of notable drug barons seeking
development. Pablo entered the drug trade
ransom rewards.
in 1975 after years of being involved in
other crimes, including the kidnapping
To protect against the kidnapping of
notable Medellin politician. By the late
other drug baron family members, the
1970s, Pablo established himself as a
Medellin Cartel created the Muerte a
Secuestradores (Death to Kidnappers) at
the end of 1981 – a paramilitary group
Colombian Medellín Cartel
designed to protect the personal and
the United States that must go through
economic interests of the members of the
many drop-off points along the way
cartel. Small industrialists, cattle ranchers,
(Central American countries, Caribbean
even Colombian legislature members met
with members of the Medellin cartel in
Puerto Boyaca to create this MAS
paramilitary force8.
This is where we pick up the story in
PICSim 2016. It is 1982, and cocaine has
just surpassed coffee as Colombia’s number
one export. The Medellín Cartel is highly
prosperous, bringing in over 400 million
dollars a week, and Pablo Escobar has just
been elected into the Colombian Congress.
Throughout the crisis simulation,
delegates will be focusing on two major
questions: How can the Cartel make more
money, and what could get in their way?
When approaching this issue, it is
important to focus on how to improve
exports in production and transportation. A
great deal of cocaine is being brought into
islands, southern Florida strategic
locations), and efficiency and discretion
can always be improved.
Finding ways to increase profits is
not the only challenge that the Cartel faces.
Finding allies and avoiding or eliminating
outside threats is essential to the existence
of the Medellín Cartel. The Cali cartel is
the Colombian rival cartel to the Medellín,
and it is important for Cartel leaders to
maintain dominance on the global drug
markets, which may lead to conflict and
fighting within the country. Another nonstate group at odds with the Medellín Cartel
is the guerilla group M-19, which has tried
to and sometimes successfully kidnapped
Cartel members or their families for
ransom. Because of this, the Medellín
Cartel is looking into forming its own
paramilitary operation.
Colombian Medellín Cartel
on drug transport and searching for leaders
The Colombian and US governments also
in the many Colombian cartels. There are,
pose risks to the Cartel. With millions of
however, members of the Colombian
dollars of cocaine flowing into the US
government that are more prone to making
every day, the US government is cracking
a deal with Medellín members. Special
down on drug trafficking and insisting that
treatment from government officials can be
the Colombian government find and
obtained through bribery and other coercive
extradite known drug lords to the US.
The Colombian government poses a big
Again, money is the ultimate goal of the
threat to the Medellín Cartel. With pressure
Medellín Cartel, and they are willing to use
from the US Drug Enforcement
nearly any tactic to obtain as much money
Administration, officials are cracking down
as possible.
Colombian Medellín Cartel
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria: Pablo
Juan David Ochoa Vásquez: Juan David
Escobar, one of the leaders of the Cartel, is
Ochoa is the oldest of the Ochoa brothers
known as a ruthless criminal and
and one of the founding members of the
mastermind of the Medellín trafficking
Medellín Cartel.
operations to the United States. Escobar has
been arrested before for drug possession
Fabio Ochoa Vásquez: Fabio is the
but has bribed and murdered judges to stay
youngest of the Ochoa brothers and a high
out of prison. He usually does not carry out
ranking official in the Cartel. Throughout
the violence himself (although the deaths of
the 1970s, Fabio lived in Miami, Florida.
hundreds of people are linked back to him);
instead, Escobar is more hands-on involved
José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha: José
in the transportation of cocaine throughout
Rodríguez is one of the leading and original
the Western hemisphere. He has also just
members of the Medellín Cartel. Rodríguez
been elected to a seat in the Chamber of
has risen to power while developing a
Representatives of Colombia.
successful trafficking route from Colombia,
through Central America and Mexico with
Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez: Jorge Ochoa
delivery in California, Texas, and other
is one of the founding members of the
parts of the Southwestern US. Rodríguez is
Medellín Cartel. Ochoa inherited the
currently researching ways to implement
trafficking business at a much smaller scale
foreign technology and practices into the
from his father in 1976 and has developed
maintenance and security of the Cartel.
it with the help of his two brothers.
Colombian Medellín Cartel
Gustavo Gavaria: Gavaria is a cousin of
George Jung: Jung is a major partner of
Pablo Escobar and is in charge of the
the Medellín Cartel in the United States and
finances for the Medellín Cartel.
has a large influence within the Cartel when
it comes to physically smuggling drugs out
Carlos Lehder: In his youth, Carlos
of Colombia and over US borders. Jung
Lehder was a marijuana dealer. After being
was previously a cellmate with Carlos
imprisoned and released for drug
Lehder, who brought him into the drug
trafficking, Lehder began working with the
trafficking operation. Though only
Medellín Cartel and George Jung to
considered a “middle-man,” Jung continues
smuggle cocaine into the US by means of
to offer ideas for drug transportation on
stolen planes and Bahamian islands.
different types of planes.
Eventually, Lehder bought up the entirety
of the island called Norman’s Cay in the
José Abello Silva: Abello Silva is a high
Caribbean, forced its inhabitants to move,
ranking official in the Medellín Cartel and
and now uses it for the Medellín’s drug
not only holds positions of power within
smuggling hub. The island is very well
the Colombian organization but also
protected, and thanks to the money Lehder
overseas a great deal of Medellín Caribbean
has accumulated through this operation, he
has offered twice to pay off Colombia’s
external debt in order to gain freedom to
Rafael (Rafa) Cardona Salazar: Rafa is
traffic drugs without consequence and
known for his severity, violence, and
avoid extradition to the US.
importance to the Medellín Cartel. He is
Pablo Escobar’s cartel point-person in the
Colombian Medellín Cartel
United States, despite the fact that he
running trafficking operations throughout
mostly works with the Ochoa brothers.
the city. In addition to her facilitation of
Rafa is responsible for recruiting
drugs throughout the country, Blanco is
Americans to join the Cartel and help them
also connected to the gang and drug
smuggle drugs throughout the country.
violence that is taking place throughout
Currently, Salazar is working on shipping
routes throughout the US and cocaine
packaging that would enable it to be
John Jairo Velasquez: Velasquez is Pablo
dropped off in water without getting wet.
Escobar’s number one, go-to hit-man. He is
responsible for the deaths of hundreds of
Griselda Blanco: Blanco is known as the
people, both involved in the drug cartels
Cocaine Godmother. In the early 1970s, she
and the Colombian government. Velasquez
lived in New York and established a
himself also strategically plans attacks on
cocaine trafficking route until she was
political figures and rival cartel leaders to
arrested in 1975 and fled back to Colombia.
make a statement in the name of the
After a few years, she travelled back to the
Medellín Cartel.
US and now lives in Miami, Florida
Colombian Medellín Cartel
Works Cited:
Colombian Medellín Cartel