As he stands on a hill overlooking the city, Popeye says proudly to Rusty: “Look Kangaroo! I want to introduce you to Medellin. This is the city of crime kings, Pablo Escobar and Popeye. This city that you see here is the only city in the world where a criminal organisation has fought a government and killed 540 policemen. The is the ‘City of War’.”
Popeye was Pablo Escobar’s assassin of choice, who has claimed responsibility for over 3,000 killings. He shows no remorse.
Rusty’s journey begins where it did all those years ago, at San Pedro Prison in Bolivia’s capital La Paz. It was here that he met drug smuggler Thomas McFadden, a man who would change his life forever. In return for McFadden’s story, Rusty secured his release. Greeting each other as old friends, the two men tour McFadden’s former home, discussing what brought them there in the first place: cocaine. Since that first trip to Bolivia, Rusty has been fascinated and appalled by the devastating consequences of this innocuous white powder.
The allure of unimaginable wealth, lavish parties, and beautiful women is what sucked George Jung into trafficking. Made famous by Johnny Depp’s portrayal of him in Blow, Jung was part of the infamous Medellin Cartel, led by Pablo Escobar. Making $200 000 a month, Jung was living the dream: “you think you’re a real slick son of a bitch, the ultimate playboy in the universe."
But for Jung it became about more than the money: “the money was just a tool. you loved the game. The game was your opiate. You were addicted to fear,"
he tells Rusty. Eventually Jung’s addiction would lead him to jail, entrapped by the DEA.
Jung’s captors, the DEA, have been fighting the cartels since the ‘70s. They have learnt from their enemies, using assassinations, coercion, bribery, and espionage in their quest to bring the gangsters to justice. A key force in bringing down Escobar and the Medellin Cartel, DEA Agent Mike Vigil saw it all. But despite his experiences of horrific violence and death, Vigil says he would do it all again “for 1000 lifetimes… it’s intoxicating, it’s like a drug."
Whilst the whole world has heard of Medellin and Escobar, it is Bolivia that is now at the heart of cocaine production. Former Medellin Cartel logistics manager turned DEA agent, Carlos Toro says that “Bolivia is the driving force behind the cocaine that is running all over the world,"
encouraged by President Evo Morales who is “in it 120%."
Indeed, many fear Bolivia is on its way to becoming a narco-state.