The truth about the horrific crimes of the Cali Cartel

The Cali Cartel was an offshoot of the Medellin Cartel, and while its founders were known as the Gentlemen of Cali due to their elevated social status, they were just as dangerous.

The leadership of the cartel consisted of the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, Gilberto and Miguel, and Jose Santacruz Londoño. According to the book End of Millennium, the Rodriguez Orejuela's came from the upper-middle-class society of Cali, Colombia. This meant they never challenged the ruling oligarchs, choosing instead to work with the landowners and business leaders instead of outwardly going to war with them as Pablo Escobar did. The cartel also enjoyed some degree of immunity at the start, though this gradually eroded. 

But what this meant is that the Cali Cartel could get away with a lot more violence and authorities could be bribed to look away, CNN reports. One of the Cali Cartel's many violent acts included "social cleansing" where they killed those they considered undesirables, per End of Millennium. Paramilitary forces controlled by the cartel randomly killed prostitutes, the homeless, gay men and women, street children, beggars, and petty thieves. There were even "hunting parties." The terrible violence and senseless killing even bankrupted a town who had to foot the cost of retrieving bodies from a river and autopsies.

Escalating violence

As if going around and killing those they felt didn't belong in society wasn't gruesome enough, the Cali Cartel also joined up with Escobar's Medellin Cartel and other drug traffickers to form the Muerte a Secuestadores, or MAS, which roughly translates to Death to Kidnappers. The group was set up to hunt down members of the guerilla group M-19 who kidnapped the sister of a high-ranking Medellin official, writes End of Millennium. Even though she was returned after three days, the MAS' reign of terror continued.

Eventually, the Cali Cartel turned their violence to Escobar. This eventually proved to be their downfall. And unlike in Narcos, the Cali Cartel was not brought down by Agent Peña. They hired a military engineer named Jorge Salcedo to help plan an assassination attempt on Escobar, explains The Seattle Times. He devised an air assault on the Medellin Cartel's compound but one helicopter hit a mountain and the pilot was killed. A second attempt was made with some British mercenaries but this was scrapped. When Escobar went to prison, another plan was hatched to get bombs from El Salvador but things went awry and soon Salcedo was exposed as working for the cartel to the Colombian government. Soon after this, Salcedo decided enough was enough. He became a CIA informant.

He turned over papers to the CIA that helped bring down the Cali Cartel, Salcedo wrote in CNN. There was public outrage over the corruption encouraged by the government. Eventually, all of the cartel's leaders were arrested and the cartel's reign of violence ended.