The Backstory: Fear and Fame

Home The Backstory: Fear and Fame

A book cover with an old photo of a woman holding a bible.

As chief of security for the Cali cartel, Jorge Salcedo saw too much — too much greed, too much graft, too much violence and depravity. He still knows enough to be a menace to some of the most ruthless and powerful crime bosses on the globe. That’s why Jorge and his family finally fled Colombia for a new home, new names, and the protection of federal marshals  somewhere in the United States.

When he agreed to meet with an an American journalist and share his story publicly, Jorge risked more than facing difficult questions and uncomfortable truths. He had to trust the author with his personal security and that of his entire family, making the story behind the story a drama of its own.

“More About Jorge and Me”

I CAN’T FIND HIM – Even as his biographer I don’t know where he lives – not his street, not his city, not his state. And I don’t know his legal name in the witness protection program. Salcedo is the family name he left behind in Colombia.

HOW WE MET – Our first meeting in 1998 took place in a nearly empty federal courtroom in Miami where Jorge was appearing before a judge. Two bodyguards from the U.S. Marshal’s Service provided his protection even in that setting. I spoke with Jorge for no more than 10 minutes. But that was the beginning of a years-long

A book cover with an old photo of a woman holding a bible.
BUSTED — Glum Cali godfather Miguel Rodriquez Orejuela (seated) after his capture with daring and defiant assistance from Jorge Salcedo (August 1995).

collaboration that continues… along with those lingering, still-kept secrets that make ours the oddest of friendships.

HIS MOST STARTLING REVELATION – From a thousand hours of interviews, the biggest surprise to me (by far) was Jorge’s disclosure late in the project that his children had never been told his incredible story. The book would serve as the first full explanation to his family of how they ended up in the United States.

A book cover with an old photo of a woman holding a bible.
Jorge Salcedo in disguise on TV studio monitor (2012)

JORGE’S FEAR OF FAME – The book about him was a bestseller in his native Colombia. In the states, it topped the hardcover true crime list published in the Wall Street Journal for weeks. It’s been published around the world in five (going on six) languages. His character has been portrayed on the popular Netflix TV series “Narcos” and on an 80-episode Spanish language series that has aired throughout the Hispanic world. Yet, Jorge can’t enjoy his relative celebrity. He can’t appear in public as his now-famous self except in disguise.

WHY HE SPOKE OUT — One of the first questions I asked Jorge was about his motivation. Why risk speaking out? No book or film project was in sight for years to come. No financial reward, not a dime, was offered for a story in the Los Angeles Times. “People should know what I know now,” he explained. He wanted his life experience to be a lesson for others like him: “If you are invited into (organized crime), stop — stop and run away. Don’t think you can ever fully escape.”