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Montevideo, October 5th 2023 - 01:54 UTC



Former Cali Cartel capo dies in US prison

Thursday, June 2nd 2022 - 09:34 UTC
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El Ajedrecista had funded Ernesto Samper's presidential campaign. His methods were softer and more subtle than those of Escobar El Ajedrecista had funded Ernesto Samper's presidential campaign. His methods were softer and more subtle than those of Escobar

Wednesday's death at a US prison of former Cali Cartel capo Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, aka El Ajedrecista (The Chessman), who used to wage his own war against rival trafficker Pablo Escobar of the Medellín Cartel, has revived stories of the 1980s and 1990s which have been romanticized through the entertainment industry.

Colombian drug lords of that era seem to be following the footsteps of gangsters in the United States from the prohibition years.

El Ajedrecista, head of the Cali Cartel together with his brother Miguel, died at the age of 83 in a prison in the United States, where he had been extradited 20 years ago on drug trafficking charges.

Escobar's violent methods forced the Cali men to adopt a defense strategy and dedicate part of their efforts to finding the rival gang leader who was eventually gunned down by law enforcement authorities on December 2, 1993.

Unlike Escobar, El Ajedrecista and his brother, nicknamed “El Señor,” were known for bribing government officials, seizing banks, radio stations, a chain of pharmacies, a professional soccer team, and sponsoring political campaigns.

The Cali Cartel wired US$ 6 million to fund the presidential campaign of Ernesto Samper (1994-1998), who eventually admitted reports in this regard were true but claimed that it had all happened behind his back.

The Rodríguez Orejuela brothers were owners of the professional soccer team América de Cali, which had some great players on its roster and lost three straight Copa Libertadores finals in the 1980s.

After Escobar's death, authorities tracked the Cali Cartel, whose members were either arrested or killed. Rodríguez Orejuela was captured on June 9, 1995, inside a hideout he had built inside a luxurious house in the north of Cali. He was later released from jail, but arrested yet again and extradited in 2004 to the United States. Two years later he was sentenced to 30 years in prison and sent to Butner Federal Prison in North Carolina.

In recent years, his lawyers had asked for clemency due to the precarious state of his health, as a result of prostate and colon cancer, and the fear of being infected with COVID-19.

According to Bogota's El Tiempo, the cause of El Ajedrecista's death was “a complication of cerebral lymphoma.”

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