ColombiaOne.comCrimeCartel Wars: Griselda Blanco vs Ochoa Brothers

Cartel Wars: Griselda Blanco vs Ochoa Brothers


Griselda Colombia Ochoa Brothers
The Ochoa brothers’ journey to drug lords in Colombia, and their relationship with Griselda Blanco, known as the ‘Godmother of Cocaine – Ochoa brothers – Juan David, Jorge Luis, and Fabio – Credit: Wikipedia

In the history of Colombia’s drug trade, the Ochoa brothers – Juan David, Jorge Luis, and Fabio – are prominent figures. Their transition from cattle breeders to key players in the Medellín Cartel and the paramilitary movement, along with their interactions with figures like Griselda Blanco, provides a comprehensive view of Colombia’s narcotics era.

Origins and ascent in the drug trade

The Ochoa brothers, born into a family of horse breeders, shifted their focus to narcotics. Jorge Luis’s discovery of the cocaine trade’s profitability in the United States marked the family’s transition from legitimate business to significant players in the global drug trade. The Medellín Cartel, established in 1978 with Pablo Escobar, saw the Ochoas controlling a major portion of the global cocaine market, managing an estimated 80% of the supply to the United States. Their success brought immense wealth and power, enabling them to maintain a facade as successful businessmen and horse enthusiasts.

The kidnapping of their sister, Martha Nieves Ochoa Vásquez, by the M-19 guerrilla group in 1981, was a turning point. The Ochoas formed MAS ‘Death to Kidnappers’ (Muerte a Secuestradores), a private army targeting guerrilla sympathizers, marking a significant escalation in Colombia’s armed conflict and setting the stage for future paramilitary organizations. This group was responsible for numerous acts of violence, contributing to the rise of paramilitary forces in Colombia.

The Ochoa brothers and Griselda Blanco

As the Ochoa brothers solidified their power, Griselda Blanco, known as the “Godmother of Cocaine,” was establishing her empire. The Netflix series “Griselda” depicts the Ochoas and Blanco as rivals, reflecting the competitive nature of the drug trade in the 1980s. Blanco’s operations, though separate, intersected with the intricate web of narcotics trafficking that included the Ochoas and other major players like Pablo Escobar.

As key members of the ‘extraditables’, a group of narcotraffickers opposing extradition treaties with the United States, they found themselves increasingly cornered by the conflict with the Cali Cartel and the relentless pursuit by the DEA and Colombian authorities.

In response to the intensifying pressure, Colombian President César Gaviria introduced a decree guaranteeing no extradition, reduced sentences, and fair trials for narcotraffickers who voluntarily surrendered to justice. This policy led to the eventual surrender of the Ochoa brothers.

Jorge Luis Ochoa was the first to surrender on January 15, 1991. He received a sentence of 8 years and 4 months in prison but served less than six years. Remarkably, he remains free and alive today. Juan David Ochoa followed suit in February 1991, receiving a five-year sentence. He lived a relatively peaceful life until his death in July 2013 in Medellín, due to a heart attack.

Fabio Ochoa, the youngest of the brothers, initially chose a different path by continuing to traffic cocaine with Pablo Escobar. His criminal activities eventually led to his capture in 1999.

He was extradited to the United States in 2001, where he received a 30-year prison sentence. Among the charges against him were the assassination of Barry Seal, a former pilot for the Medellín Cartel who became a DEA informant, and conspiracy to smuggle 30 tons of cocaine into North America between 1997 and 1999.

Ochoa’s attorney, Richard Klugh, has requested a federal judge to reduce his 30-year sentence by about five years, following changes in federal sentencing guidelines. If this appeal is successful, it would lead to Ochoa’s early release and subsequent deportation to Colombia. The U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has yet to respond, with a deadline set for May 1.

The Ochoa brothers’ surrender marked the end of their direct involvement in Colombia’s drug trade. Their legacy is a testament to the complexities and far-reaching consequences of the drug trade in shaping the country’s history.

The Ochoa brothers’ impact on Colombia

The Ochoa brothers were instrumental in shaping Colombia’s drug trade and the armed conflict. Their actions contributed to the rise of paramilitary violence and the perpetuation of a cycle of drug-related crime and instability. Their story is a testament to the narcotics trade’s far-reaching impact on Colombia’s social, political, and criminal landscapes.

The MAS, initiated by the Ochoa brothers, expanded its operations beyond targeting guerrilla groups, engaging in widespread violence and human rights abuses. This led to the formation of various paramilitary groups across Colombia, exacerbating the country’s internal conflict.

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