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José Santacruz Londoño

José Santacruz LondoñoJosé Santacruz Londoño AKA Chepe, was born on October 1, 1943, in Cali, Colombia. He was one of the leaders of the Cali Cartel along with Pacho Herrera and Miguel and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela. He was a tall and corpulent man, he was 1.80 meters tall. He was also considered the most violent of the Cali Cartel.

Chepe had a turbulent sentimental life to the point of having four sentimental partners with whom he had six children. He had a great preference for unattractive ladies, for brothels and bars of dubious reputation.

He was captured on July 4, 1995. Then on January 11, 1996, he would escape, although his enjoyment of freedom would not last long since seven weeks later he was murdered.

¿How did José Santacruz Londoño begin in drug trafficking?

Chepe Santacruz, began in the world of crime with the band “Los Chemas” with the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers and he was the architect of the idea of changing extortion, robbery and kidnapping for drug trafficking, importing coca paste from Bolivia and Peru .

coca leaf seeding
coca leaf seeding

Later he would introduce the Orejuela brothers to Pacho Herrera and together they make up what is known today as the Cali Cartel.

José Santacruz Londoño Within the Cali Cartel

Their distribution networks extended to New York, where DEA authorities discovered an alkaloid processing laboratory. The money laundering operations included the east coast of the United States, Colombia and Western Europe.

josé santacruz londoño property
One of José Santacruz Londoño properties

It is estimated that thanks to the control he had of a significant percentage of the cocaine market, he managed to amass a fortune of about 10,000 million US $. He had a team of high-level architectural designers to sketch and decorate the multiple real estate properties that he bought to be used as a hideaway.

Chepe Santacruz’s Sister is Kidnapped

In mid-September of 1992, José Santacruz’s sister, Cristina Santacruz, was kidnapped by guerrillas belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The perpetrators demanded Chepe to pay the sum of 12 million dollars.

Chepe refused to pay that amount, instead he decided to apply the law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and kidnap Amparo Torres, who was Pablo Catatumbo’s sister, a member of the FARC who was in charge of the peace negotiations.

pablo catatumbo
Pablo Catatumbo

In January, 1993, the drug lord and the FARC agreed to make an exchange of hostages and Chepe’s sister is released.

How Was José Santacruz Londoño Captured?

On March 14, 1995, the search block raided one of his properties, obtaining valuable information that would allow them to follow his steps much more closely.

From there, little by little, they were collecting more information thanks to new raids and data provided by informants.

On April 30, the state decides to attack with all its arsenal and perform an incessant search for 12 days. Although they could not find the drug lord, they managed to get one of his most valuable properties.

The authorities then received phone calls from their informants with information on Santacruz’s whereabouts, but he was always one step ahead and by the time the search block arrived at the site, Chepe was far away.

Finally, they decided to attack the only city they had not touched until now, Bogotá. They searched properties, companies and followed the steps of the manager of one of them with the hope that it would lead them to the capture of the drug lord. The results were not different.

The Search intensifies

On June 18, the authorities would receive new information from one of their informants. Chepe was in Cali, but due to an illness, he was getting ready to travel to Bogotá the next day.

On June 19, the police put together a super operative and tirelessly visit every single hospital and clinic in Cali and Bogotá. Although there were no signs of Chepe, it was known that he had been seen in a restaurant in Bogotá.

From that moment, the search block assigns agents to infiltrate the most frequented places by the narco, brothels, restaurants, etc.

Finally, after a negative streak, on July 4, 1995, everything would change. That day, two agents of the search block, continuing with their infiltration work, would arrive at one of the restaurants in the area, where they could identify the manager who had been tracked previously sitting at a table with two other people.

The agents sat at a nearby table, hoping the narco would make an appearance. At 7:45 in the evening their prayers were heard as Chepe would arrive to keep the three individuals company.

Immediately the officers communicated by radio to request reinforcements, which arrived at the site at 7:55 and proceeded to capture José Santacruz Londoño, who, to their surprise, offered no resistance. He was held in La Picota prison.

José Santacruz Londoño Breaks Out from La Picota Prison

On January 11, 1996, “The Student”, as he was also called, would break out from La Picota prison in Bogotá, with the collaboration of the brothers Armando and Jairo Vélez, who acted as their front men, for what the authorities had decided to follow them with the conviction that such tracking would lead to the apprehension of the drug lord.

The narco had become a ghost, the authorities had no idea where he might be, but a phone call would change everything.

The Informant

Another casual day at the headquarters of the Search Block, an organization created by the Presidency of the Republic of Colombia to find the whereabouts and apprehend those who were part of a select list of characters with active participation in drug trafficking activities.

The telephone rings. Ring three times.

  • ¡Hello!
  • ¡Good Morning! It is (insert here code name, it is an informant). We have knowledge of Chepe’s whereabouts.

The receiver of the call pauses. Verify the name of the informant. Check the key name of the subject. Both data correct.

  • ¿And where is he?
  • In Medellin.

Another silence, this time more prolonged. The official does not give credit to what he hears.

  • ¿Where?
  • In Medellín, Department of Antioquia, Republic of Colombia. ¿Are you deaf? The impatient interlocutor answered.
  • ¿Do you have more information?
  • ¡Sure, man! ¿Why do you think I’m calling?

He takes note of the rest of the information, hang up, with hurried step goes to the office of the guard coordinator, reports the phone conversation just held by the phone line. The coordinator gets up as if driven by an electric shock and raising his voice more than usual exclaims:


José Santacruz Londoño hides in Medellín

José Santacruz Londoño after his escape, had gone to the lion’s den.

He was in the city where Pablo Escobar Gaviria had promised his death. The drug kingpin had already fallen down a short time ago, but the resentment of the henchmen in his service that survived remained intact.

Santacruz had moved to Medellín with the intention of building alliances to resume the activities of production, distribution and sale of cocaine that had recently suffered severe blows from the authorities.

In addition to the recomposition, he added the mission to eliminate a score of likely witnesses in crimes committed by him and his associates.

With these objectives in mind, he established contacts with elements of the Cali Cartel that still recognized his authority, with personnel at the service of the Medellín Cartel that were scattered after its recent dismantling and with members of armed political movements linked to the leftist guerrilla.

There were suspicions that the cartels, once bitter enemies, had reached a peace agreement. Pablo Escobar’s wife, María Victoria Henao, lived in an apartment in Bogotá owned by the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers.

Nicolás Escobar, Pablo Escobar’s nephew who resided in Medellín, it was the person who for “humanitarian reasons” would claim the body of Mr. Santacruz with the intention of doing all the necessary diligences for his shipment to Cali.

How did José Santacruz Londoño Die?

On March 5, 1996, José Santacruz Londoño was in an area called “La cola del zorro” when a group of police patrols recognized him and proceeded to open fire on him. He responded with the firmness that characterized him.

Paradoxically, the area where he was intercepted by the police authorities under the command of General Roso Serrano, was used by the assassins of the capital city of the Department of Antioquia to abandon the corpses of people who were murdered on the orders of some prominent member of the criminal gangs who were living in it.

After the exchange of shots, the member of the Cali Cartel was shot down, in a procedure not exempt from questioning by his lawyers and human rights defenders, for which according to his assessment it was an execution.

The Truth About José Santacruz Londoño’s Death

Intelligence sources revealed that the drug lord’s death was an operation planned by the leader of the group United Self-Defense of Colombia, Carlos Castaño Gil, with the cooperation of the North Valley Cartel and Colonel Danilo González, with the purpose of selling to the public the idea that the successful operation was the work and grace of the National Police.

Beyond the doubts about the way it was approached by the authorities and the lateness of the event, this was the way to get rid of sanctions on the part of the government of the United States that accused the Colombian government of not acting with enough diligence to combat drug trafficking activities.

His fall was celebrated in the high circles of power in Colombia and it was understood as a turning point in the fight against the terrible scourge in addition to the possibility that the status of the evaluation made by the American government was modified favorably.

Chepe Santacruz and The Television

This is a list of the television series where the famous narco appears:

  • Hermes Camelo is in charge of playing Chepe in Escobar, The Drug Lord.
  • In The Snitch Cartel, he appears under the pseudonym Ignacio Sotomayor and he is played by the actor Néstor Alfonso Rojas.
  • In the third season of Narcos, Pepe Rapazote plays the drug lord.