Escobar dies, and the cocaine trade gets stronger: Simon Strong, in Medellin, describes the unity among drug lords. Patrick Cockburn, in Washington, says the trade cannot be halted

WITH the death of Pablo Escobar, drug law enforcement authorities fear Colombia's cocaine trade is destined to thrive as never before.

Although the capacity of Escobar's own faction of the Medellin cartel to reassert itself cannot be gauged, it is dwarfed by the trafficking organisations grouped loosely under the Cali cartel, former colleagues who became his greatest enemies.

It was precisely the divisions between the Medellin and Cali cartels that the police and the US drug enforcement administration were able to take advantage of in their battle to stem the flow of cocaine to the United States, Europe and Japan. Informants leaked information on the other side.

Miguel Maza Marquez is a retired general who as former head of Colombia's internal security service led the struggle against Escobar. He said: 'Without Escobar the organisations will once again be united and hence much stronger.'

The traffickers are also benefiting from the distinction made by the Colombian government between drug traffickers and drug terrorists. The former, who survived the threat of extradition to the US only because of Escobar's ferocious terrorist campaign against it, are enjoying ever softer penalties. Meanwhile, the public prosecutor, Gustavo de Greiff, is increasingly in favour of legalisation.

US drug enforcement authorities continue to talk darkly of how corruption in Colombia enables the business to prosper. They claim the day of close relations between the cocaine mafia and politicians are by no means over. Escobar was elected to the Venezuelan Congress in 1982.

Colombia's Vice-Attorney-General was suspended from office recently after he was caught in a compromising conversation with one of the Cali cartel leaders. Last week a cousin of one of the presidential favourites was arrested red-handed in Miami while allegedly laundering money he claimed he was sending for his cousin's electoral campaign.

The first close aide of Escobar to die in the campaign to wipe out the cartel was Bances Munoz Mosquera, alias 'Tyson', who headed Escobar's specially trained squad of hired killers, or sicarios. The group was responsible for the deaths of at least 500 people. Mosquers was also blamed for organising the assassination of about 200 police in Medellin.

He was shot dead by police in Medellin in October last year, only three months after Escobar's spectacular prison escape. In the months that followed police gunned down several more of Escobar's key henchmen, including his brother-in-law, Hernan Dario Henao, Johnny Rivera Acosta, Juan Carlos Ospina and Mario Castano Molina. At the same time a number of Medellin cartel members who had escaped from Envigado prison with Escobar on 19 June 1991 agreed to give themselves up. They included Escobar's brother, Roberto, and his three personal bodyguards. This accounted for the entire list of known senior cartel figures established by the authorities, leaving Escobar isolated at the head of the organisation.

During his time in prison his quarters were equipped with every convenience, including fax machines, telephones and computers, as Escobar had begun restructuring his organisation. He weeded out suspected traitors in the ranks, including the heads of the Moncada and Galeano families who were responsible for the cartel's finances and whom Escobar accused of not handing over enough money.

As a result of the government crackdown, combined with Escobar's own purge, there now seems to be nobody left in a position to take over the reins as his natural successor.

The Medellin cartel is now likely to break down into a number of rival groups all fighting to take control of its multi-million dollar cocaine distribution network.

Escobar's son, Juan Pablo, is only 16 and does not look able to take over his father's role. 'Right now the only thing that concerns me is the future of my family, which has suffered so much,' he said on Thursday. But when he first learnt of his father's death he hit out at those who had gunned him down. 'I'll kill them all,' he vowed.

But yesterday Escobar's mother, sisters and son stressed they would not seek revenge for his death. They called on his associates and supporters to refrain from retaliation. 'What had to happen, happened,' he said.

Simon Strong is currently writing a book about Pablo Escobar.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat