Murder of Miami’s ‘Cocaine Queen’ Offers Teaching Moment

The Truth of the Drug War Won’t Be Found in Hollywood or the Mainstream Media — Which Both Work From the Same Tired Script

By Bill Conroy

cocainequeenGriselda Blanco, 69, was cut down in front of a butcher shop in Medellin, Colombia, in early September by a middle-aged man who was delivered to the murder scene on the back of a motorcycle — and who calmly, methodically, jumped off the back of that bike, held a gun to Blanco’s head, and pumped two bullets into her brain.

Blanco, well prior to her death, had been pumped up as a rock star of the drug war by the US mainstream media and various Hollywood-inspired films, such as the Cocaine Cowboys documentary. In fact, at the time of her death, several feature films about her life as a big-time cocaine dealer and killer in Miami in the 1970s and early 1980s were reportedly in the works — including one in which movie star Jennifer Lopez is seeking to play the leading role as the “Narco Queen” in hopes of winning an Oscar, according to Fox News Latino.

But Blanco, like so many other US-media created narco anti-heroes, is more fiction than reality, and a prime example of how US “news” coverage of the drug war has become essentially indistinguishable from the fiction manufactured in Tinsel Town.

Baruch Vega, a long-time CIA asset who, in the 1990s and early 2000s, helped to broker cooperating-source deals on behalf of US law enforcement agencies and the CIA with dozens of major Colombian narco-traffickers, describes Blanco as, at best, a mid-level player in the cocaine business during her prime.

“She was made out to be the queen of cocaine, but there were much more powerful people,” Vega says. “She was responsible for killing a lot of people [street lore puts the number at a couple hundred], but she wasn’t the biggest killer. The biggest hit man at the time [in Miami cocaine wars in the early 1980s] was a Venezuelan named Amilcar Rodriquez. Many of the people that Blanco claimed she killed, he was responsible for killing, but he was happy to let her take the credit.”

Nonetheless, Blanco had made a long list of deadly enemies by the time she was 69 — after serving years in a US prison prior to being deported in 2004 back to her native land of Colombia. And it is the still-open question of who assassinated her on the streets of Medellin last month that opens a door to the past, to the obscured history of the drug war that you will not read about in the New York Times or see exposed on CNN, or even in a Hollywood film — precisely because it is not fiction.

The Cocaine Coup

One murder scene that Blanco’s fingerprints are all over, most observers agree, is the Dadeland Mall shootout in Miami in 1979, which left two people dead in the wake of a barrage of bullets in front of a liquor store. The assassins in that hit job worked for Blanco, and one of the men left dead, not reported until this time, was the father of a brutal Colombian killer and drug dealer named Papo Mejia (Luis Fernando Arcila Mejia), according to Mike Levine, a retired DEA agent who was working some of the biggest deep undercover cases for the agency in the 1970s and 1980s — both in the US and South America.

One of those cases, dubbed Operation Hun, targeted major Bolivian and Colombian narco-traffickers, including Mejia. But Levine, author of a detailed and revelatory nonfiction drug-war book, The Big White Lie, insists that, due to CIA intervention and complicity in the drug trade, most of the targets of Operation Hun walked free, with a few exceptions, such as Mejia — who was ultimately convicted of narco-trafficking-related crimes, sentenced to a couple decades in a US prison and, upon his release in the early 2000s, deported to Colombia

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