Griselda Blanco, also known as “The Cocaine Godmother”,“La Madrina” and “The Black Widow”, was one of the most notorious drug lords of the Medellin Cartel in the 1970’s and early 80’s era. While Pablo Escobar was still a small-time thug in Medellin, Griselda Blanco built up a multi-million dollar cocaine empire between Colombia and the USA. There were several reasons why the teenage runaway from Medellin became one of the mightiest women in the history of drug cartels. Blanco was creative and revolutionized coke trafficking, on one occasion she managed to smuggle drugs sewn in clothes of her own line of underwear. On the other hand, she was known as a criminal mastermind with a spider web of ruthless affiliates, and feared for her cruelty and mercilessness. The total number of murders she either committed herself or ordered through contract killers is still unknown, but it is estimated that she was responsible for up to 200 murders, 40 of them in the USA, including the death of a two-year old boy in 1982.
Griselda was born on February 15th, 1943 as the daughter of a field worker and a landowner in Cartagena, Colombia. She grew up among thugs and sex workers in the slums of Medellin, her mother being a part-time prostitute who was physically abusive towards her. At the age of 13, Griselda joined a youth gang. It is believed that she committed her first murder around that time, when she shot a 11-year old boy that she and her gang had kidnapped from a rich family. Between the age of 14 and 20, Griselda, who had run away from her abusive mother, started working as a prostitute herself. She moved to New York with her first husband, where she started to build up a flourishing trade in cocaine. By 1972, Blanco was controlling New York’s entire cocaine market.
In 1985, Griselda Blanco was arrested in a cocaine trafficking case in New York City. All in all, after her charges for murder had to be dropped due to technicalities, Blanco served roughly 20 years in several US prisons before she was released and deported to Colombia in 2004. Eight years later, on September 3rd, 2012, Blanco was assassinated by two unknown men on a motorcycle in a drive-by-shooting. Ironically, she herself had “invented” motorcycle assassinations in Colombia. Griselda died in a way reminiscent of the numerous murders she used to order during her reign - she was shot in the head twice.
This is what happens when you buy into the dog whistle narrative that Trumps immigration rhetoric was “only” targeted towards the (imaginary) “bad hombres” who were taking over the country and putting drug cartels on every corner.
And that by buying into this “bad hombre” racist respectability politic bullshit, you thought that were somehow protecting your family from said racism.
That somehow racists will value your family over all the other families that they hate, (and are separating) based on race, due to your proximity to whiteness.
History tells us that proximity to whiteness not only isn’t a protectant, but often makes marginalized folks bigger targets.
Racism doesn’t defend or protect against racism, and respectability politics really only works to benefit white supremacy - sorry to tell you.
“I was personally involved in taking down the planet’s most notorious drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar, in 1993. While we managed to make Colombia a bit safer, it came at a tremendous price.” —César Gaviria, former president of Colombia
former president césar gaviria wrote a new york times op-ed decrying the violent anti-drug campaign in the philippines led by president rodrigo duterte
Illegal drugs are a matter of national security, but the war against them cannot be won by armed forces and law enforcement agencies alone. Throwing more soldiers and police at the drug users is not just a waste of money but also can actually make the problem worse. Locking up nonviolent offenders and drug users almost always backfires, instead strengthening organized crime.
That is the message I would like to send to the world and, especially, to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Trust me, I learned the hard way.
We Colombians know a thing or two about fighting drugs. Our country has long been one of the world’s primary suppliers of cocaine. With support from North American and Western European governments, we have poured billions of dollars into a relentless campaign to eradicate drugs and destroy cartels.
The city of El Fuerte, in Mexico, is one that has been ravaged by the drug cartels and the corruption and indifference of the local authorities. More than 2.000 people have disappeared, taken violently, their fates unknown.
But there’s a group of women, called Las Rastreadoras, or The Trackers, who have taken upon themselves to do what the local police won’t. These women gather together to search for clues and search the fields to find an answer for all the families that have lost a loved one. In the two years since they established their group, they have found the remains of 48 of those missing people, with no more resources than their own tenacity and desire to provide some comfort to grieving parents, spouses and children. They don’t get any support from authorities, and the Mayor of the city even refused to meet with them.
The leader of Las Rastreadoras is a woman called Mirna Medina, pictured above. She decided to form the group after her 21 year old son Roberto was kidnapped from a gas station on July 14th, 2014. A truck pulled over next to where he was selling cell phone accesories and just took him. He’s never been found, and there’s no one really investigating. She requested the surveillance footage from the day he was kidnapped, but the station refused. A man who apparently knew where they’d taken him, went missing two weeks after Mirna confronted him.
Like Mirna, most of the brave women in Las Rastreadoras have lost a son, or a brother, in the same way. They are fighting against the fear that grips their community, and that’s why this year they’ve been proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize.