The Cali Cartel: Lessons in Crime and Civic Pride

 

The new generation of Colombian drug thugs seems to have abandoned a commitment to civic responsibility pioneered by their forefathers in crime – the Cali cartel.

Recent news accounts reveal that Cali today is the most violent city in Colombia with a staggering murder rate of nearly 76 per 100,000 residents. Blame it on turf fights between small and medium-sized drug gangs, the scattered remnants of the dismantled cartel, says the website Colombia Reports.

How times have changed.

The four godfathers of the old Cali cartel were just as ruthless as the next drug lord, but they saw business value in keeping their neighborhoods crime-free. As disclosed in the pages of At the Devil’s Table, the so-called gentlemen of Cali went so far as to ban mob killings anywhere within the city limits without their prior and unanimous consent.

For years, such killings were rare. In one incident, however, a cartel lieutenant in a jealous rage shot and killed a man who danced with his girl friend. Police never charged him, but the bosses threatened to impose capital punishment. In a brief private hearing, the man apologized profusely for risking embarrassment to the godfathers and, after begging for his life, he was spared from his own out-of-town execution.

The cartel bosses’ reputations as good citizens – enhanced, of course, with generous bribes – led to friends in high places throughout their community: at city hall, the regional prosecutor’s office, the police and at public utilities like the phone company. Local support helped make them giants of international organized crime.

Cali’s new drug gangsters are clearly a menace to themselves and others, but they are not giants. And they are unlikely to accumulate political clout once held by their far more disciplined…and more dangerous…forefathers.