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Pacho Herrera

Pacho HerreraHelmer Herrera Buitrago, AKA “Pacho Herrera” was born on August 24, 1951, in Palmira, Colombia. He was one of the leaders of the Cali Cartel along with brothers Miguel and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela and José Santacruz Londoño, AKA Chepe. It measured 1.70 meters of height and he was known to have an aggressive character. It managed to consolidate itself as one of the main money launderers in all Colombia.

After feeling cornered by the authorities, he decides to submit to justice and he is held in the penitentiary of Palmira, where he would die on November 4, 1998, because of multiple gunshot wounds.

Early Life of Pacho Herrera

There is not much information about his early life. He studied the career of Technical Maintenance and later in 1975, he would emigrate to New York City, USA, in search of a better future.

Pacho Herrera in New York
Pacho would move to the big apple in search of better quality of life

He would get a job there, in a company that was in charge of manufacturing parts for warplanes, performing as an industrial mechanic and earning a salary of US $ 7 an hour, well above the wage that was paid at that time.

¿How did Pacho Herrera begin in drug trafficking?

Herrera was part of that silent army of Colombians, who were slowly occupying large cities of the United States.

In parallel to his work, he also served as the dealer of a fashionable drug distribution chain in the last years of the frantic seventy in the United States: His Majesty, Cocaine.

As a result of an operation of the New York Police, he was arrested and placed on the order of the courts, whose judges sentenced him to purge a year in prison for the crime committed.

Pacho Herrera becomes the Manager of the Cali Cartel

After being released, he did not forget the activity that deprived him of freedom, on the contrary; he came out with new ideas and with intentions to get new partners to help him to move from modest dealer to drug lord.

He meets Mr. José Santacruz Londoño, who introduced him Gilberto and Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, with whom he begins to assemble the logistics necessary to put cocaine in New York City through Mexico, collect money, pay the network of bribes to the collaborators and in a patriotic act, take the cash profits for his native Colombia, to be reinvested and properly laundered, to give the impression that they came from licit activities. For something he was nicknamed “The Manager”.

Pacho Herrera's house
One of Pacho Herrera’s properties

In order to send the money from the United States to Colombia, he used many methods, such as the use of domestic appliances to which he took out all the internal system of operation and filled it with money, at other times placing wads of bills wrapped inside the clothes. After the authorities detected this system, they began to use double bottom suitcases.

Discretion, First and Foremost

All these movements were in accordance with the management philosophy adopted by the Cali Cartel, which had as its principle, discretion.

Helmer did his best to avoid stealthy camera lenses, he refused to appear in public and he had a small social group. All this complicated the search of the authorities, who were anxious to catch him.

Pacho Herrera VS Pablo Escobar

In 1987, one of Pablo Escobar’s hitmen was attacked by one of Pacho Herrera’s men. This, in addition to the refusal of Herrera in representation of the Cali Cartel to collaborate with Escobar in his war against the Colombian state, it would cause that the leader of the Medellin Cartel declared to Pacho and the rest of the drug lords, military objective.

On January 13, 1988, Pacho Herrera ordered his men to place a car bomb in front of the Monaco building, a place of residence for several of Escobar’s relatives, including his wife and children. The blast left three people dead. Escobar’s relatives left unharmed.

Then Pablo Escobar would attempt against Herrera’s life twice, one of which left 19 people dead when on September 25, 1990, a group of men, armed with machine guns and wearing military uniforms opened fire to a crowd that witnessed a football match in the town of Candelaria.

The other attack was carried out in a resort on the outskirts of Cali, called Jamundí, on July 27, 1991, a total of 15 people were killed.

The bloody war would see its end on December 2, 1993, with the death of Pablo Escobar.

¿Why was Helmer Buitrago Nicknamed Pacho Herrera?

Due to the war that maintained the Medellín Cartel against the Cali Cartel, they decide to call him “Pacho” to protect his identity, since Escobar would use all type of methods like intelligence, telephone interventions and others, to end his lifetime.

Pacho Herrera and Claudio Salazar Endo

After watching the third season of Narcos, it is normal that we ask ourselves about the rivalry between Pacho Herrera and Claudio Endo (Claudio Salazar in the series)

The problem between them begins when Claudio Endo murders several members of the guerrillas because one of them owed him money. To his bad luck one of them was Pacho Herrera’s friend, who was furious at Endo’s actions.

Pacho talks to the other cartel leaders about what happened and he asks them for permission to end Claudio Endo’s life. Miguel, Gilberto and Chepe gave him the go-ahead to carry out his revenge.

pacho herrera and claudio salazar
Pacho Herrera and Claudio Salazar in the series Narcos

¿How did Pacho Herrera Murder Claudio Salazar Endo?

Pacho Herrera managed to tap Endo’s phone, and when he made a call to his brothers to tell them he would spend the day on one of his properties near Jamundí, Pacho would send his men immediately to take revenge for the death of his friend. The drug lord was killed by more than ninety bullet wounds.

After this, one of Claudio’s brothers, who was also a drug dealer wanted to take revenge for what happened, however, this was never carried out as his other brothers called him crazy and told him that carry out an activity like that one against people as powerful as the leaders of Cali, it was to sign his death sentence.

¿How was Pacho Herrera captured?

In March 1995, an order against him for drug trafficking and illicit enrichment would be issued. It began an intense persecution that left a trail of explosions, shots and deaths.

“The manager” became the most wanted man in Colombia after the capture of his three loyal partners. He was an enemy of a state that had put a price of 1,000 million pesos at his head.

Following his trail, the government was raiding and confiscating property, detaining his collaborators to offer him less years of imprisonment in exchange for verifiable information that would lead to his capture.

After 18 months of fleeing, on September 1, 1996, Herrera decided to facilitate the task to the authorities and surrendered, being sentenced to 14 years in prison.

In the various declarations, he unveiled the entire distribution network, as well as details of the operations that served the purpose of putting in the noses of anxious consumers the pulverized product of the coca leaf.

He declared that he had introduced more than 125 million dollars in Colombian territory in cash and the ownership of banks in Colombia and Panama.

¿How did Pacho Herrera die?

“Pacho” had decided to change his life. He surrendered to the authorities with the certainty that the Colombian state would protect his life. In prison he dedicated himself to football, to study Business Administration and to read voraciously. However, an old debt would reach him.

November 4, 1998. Palmira prison, Colombia. Another day in the prison where several enemies of the state were being punished. Visiting day.

Among the audience waiting to enter, there was a guy named Rafael Angel Uribe, dressed in impeccable English cloth suit, elegant classic style briefcase with central strap, 100% black leather in hand. He identified himself as an Attorney by showing his credential.

Good morning, Doctor! You are welcome. An affable security officer tells him.
Good Morning! Thank you.

Then he goes through dark corridors, observes the visitor’s area, scans the area expecting to see some familiar face. He was beginning to get nervous, to sweat copiously. At the end of the hall, the sunlight and a huge green carpet. Through the door, swift human figures passed for a ball.

Palmira prison
Place of detention of Pacho Herrera

He repeats the act of searching with the look some familiar face. He gets it, takes a deep breath, puts his hand in the inner pocket of the coat. No one observes. Everyone was watching the grass and its invaders in feverish activity accompanied by cries: “SO IT IS!”, “PASS IT”, “PURCHASE A BALL TO THAT SON OF A BITCH.

He reaches the target, extends the left hand, takes him by the nape with all possible strength, with the right hand he carried a weapon, placed it about 5 centimeters of the right temple and one, two, three, four, five shots .

The game was stopped, everyone went to the gunman, they took him among several to beat him up

The guards acted with the urgency of the case and they managed to save the murderer. With the victim receiving the shots almost at point blank range, there was nothing to do. Helmer Herrera, AKA “Pacho”, the most famous prisoner of the place had left this world.

¿Who Ordered Pacho Herrera’s Death?

After several investigations, it was known that several members of the North Valley Cartel were the ones that gave the order for his execution, in an operative directed by Wilber Varela AKA Jabón, lieutenant of Orlando Henao Montoya.

¿Why did They Kill Pacho Herrera?

Apparently the reason for ordering his death, it was because Herrera had carried out an attempt on Varela years ago. All this gave rise to a war between Pacho Herrera’s relatives and the north valley drug lords.

Pacho Herrera and the Television

Pacho Herrera is presented in different series on drug trafficking in Colombia:

  • He appears in “Escobar, The Drug Lord” under the name of Gerardo Carrera and is interpreted by the actor Daniel Rocha.
Pacho Herrera in tv series
Pacho Herrera’s characters in Escobar, The Drug Lord and Narcos
  • In the series “The Cartel of Snitches” he appears under the name of Hugo de la Cruz and the actor who embodies him, it is Pedro Mogollón.
  • In the popular series of Netflix, Narcos, he is interpreted by the Argentine actor Alberto Ammann.