Bomb kills 30 after cocaine baron's arrest
Monday 12 June 1995
Latin America Correspondent
"Take it easy, boys. Don't kill me. I'm a man of peace." The man who controlled 80 per cent of the world's cocaine trade, nicknamed "the Chess Player'' for his shrewdness and ability to evade arrest, gave up with a whimper when police found him cowering in a secret cupboard. He made no move for the three pistols beside him.
"Checkmate," said a headline in the Colombian daily El Tiempo, reporting Friday's arrest of the Cali cartel boss, Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela. But was it? A day after the 56-year-old drug baron was arrested in Cali, a devastating cluster bomb ripped through revellers at a music festival in the city of Medellin, killing at least 30 and wounding hundreds.
Saturday night's bomb stunned Colombia, even as President Ernesto Samper was wallowing in national and international acclaim over what he called "the beginning of the end of the Cali cartel''.
No one could be sure who was behind the bombing in Medellin, the city whose cocaine cartel once controlled most of the world trade in the drug but had recently been surpassed by its Cali rivals. Marxist guerrillas are still active and have killed or kidnapped many people recently.
But the style and timing of the bomb, packed with nuts, bolts and nails, suggested it may have been a warning from the remaining leaders of the Cali cartel, including Mr Rodriguez Orejuela's brother, Miguel.
It was left at the foot of a sculpture of a bird by Fernando Botero, the Colombian sculptor renowned for his bronze statues of fat ladies and limbless torsos. The sculptor's son, of the same name, is Colombia's Defence Minister and that may have led the bombers to choose the site, a theory which could point equally to drug gangs or left-wing guerrillas, according to police.
The fact that the bomb was in Medellin, Columbia's second city, was also a setback for the government's efforts to convince the world, notably tourists and investors, that the city is back to normal 18 months after the local cartel chief, Pablo Escobar, was shot dead during an army raid on his hide-out.
Escobar's cartel was ruthless in its efforts to control the multi-billion cocaine trade to the US and Europe and was widely held responsible for countless bomb attacks, including one which destroyed a Bogota-Cali shuttle flight, killing more than 100.
Its Cali rivals, notably Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, however, were more subtle. The brothers, one a lawyer, the other a banker, built up a network of legal businesses, from property to a first division football team. These were allegedly used to launder their massive cocaine profits.
An indictment announced in Miami last week, in which a former US Justice Department official and two former US prosecutors were among 60 people charged, suggested the Cali cartel operated like a well-oiled multinational corporation.
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 3 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 4 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
- 5 Westboro Baptist Church couldn't picket Leonard Nimoy's funeral because they didn't know where it was
Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook CEO's one simple test for who to hire
Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Saudi Arabia executions now at 'unprecedented rate' after kingdom kills four more in two days
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...
£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...
£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...