Hélmer Herrera

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Hélmer "Pacho" Herrera booking photo.

Francisco Hélmer Herrera Buitrago also known as "Pacho" and "H7", (born on August 24, 1951 in Palmira, Valle del Cauca - Died on November 4, 1998 in Palmira, Valle del Cauca) was a Colombian drug trafficker, fourth in command in the Cali Cartel. Believed to be the son of Benjamin Herrera Zuleta. [1]

Early years[edit]

Herrera grew up in the Colombian town of Palmira in the Valle del Cauca Department. While in high school, Herrera studied technical maintenance, experience that got him a job later in the United States. While living in the United States he also became a jeweler and precious metals broker until he began selling cocaine in New York City. In 1975 and later in 1978 Herrera was arrested on distribution charges in New York City for selling cocaine.[2][3][4]

Cali Cartel[edit]

It is believed in 1983 Herrera went to Cali, Colombia to negotiate supply and distribution rights with the Cali Cartel for New York City. He would later open up trafficking routes for the Cali Cartel through Mexico with connection he had previously established. In conjunction with new trafficking routes, Herrera also ran one of the "... most sophisticated and profitable money laundering operations" according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.[4] Herrera was soon promoted to Cali cartel kingpin and given control over the southern Cali city of Jamundí and northern Cali cities Palmira and Yumbo.[5]

The Herrera operation according to the DEA involved importing cocaine base from Peru and Bolivia, which would be trafficked via his own transportation to conversion laboratories in Colombia. It is believed Herrera hired guerrilla forces such as Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (English: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) (FARC) and then guerrilla group 19th of April Movement (Spanish: Movimiento 19 de Abril, M-19), to guard remote lab sites.[4]

During the narco-terror war waged by Pablo Escobar on the Colombian Government, it is believed a hired assassin attempted to kill Herrera while he was attending a sports event. The gunman opened fire with a machine gun on the crowd where Herrera was sitting, killing 19, however not hitting Herrera. [6]

Law enforcement actions[edit]

In November 1991, the DEA launched Operation Kingpin, of which two of Herreras' distribution cells in New York City were targeted. Through a large scale wiretap effort, the DEA utilized over 100 simultaneous, court-authorized wiretaps on cellular phones. At the close of Operation Kingpin close to 100 traffickers were arrested, more than $20 million in cash and assets were seized, and over 2.5 tons of cocaine seized. In addition records of transactions and personnel were seized from computers, that information later provided a greater look into the Cali Cartel cell structure.[7]

On September 1, 1996, Herrera turned himself in at the Colombian National Police unit, the Search Bloc, (Spanish: Bloque de Busqueda).[3] Herrera was the last of the seven leaders of the Cali Cartel to be captured.[4][5]

It was stated that when Herrera turned himself in, that he named former associates. A little over 2 years later on November 4, 1998, Herrera was killed by a gunman during a soccer game in a prison yard outside Cali. The assassin, identified as Rafael Angel Uribe, 32, appeared to be "an acquaintance of Herrera because he greeted him first," an official said.

Popular Culture[edit]

Is portrayed by the actor Daniel Rocha as the character of Gerardo Carrera in the TV Series Escobar, el patrón del mal.


  1. ^ Elaine Shannon Washington (June 24, 2001). "Cover Stories: New Kings of Coke". Time Magazine. 
  2. ^ "Los bienes de 'Pacho' Herrera" (in Spanish). El Tiempo. December 22, 2003. 
  3. ^ a b James R. Richards (1998). Transnational Criminal Organizations, Cybercrime, and Money Laundering: A Handbook for Law Enforcement Officers, Auditors, and Financial Investigators. CRC Press. pp. 21, 20. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Surrender of Last Cali Mafia Leader". United States Drug Enforcement Administration. September 4, 1996. 
  5. ^ a b Ron Chepesiuk (2003). The Bullet Or the Bribe: Taking Down Colombia's Cali Drug Cartel. Praeger Publishers. pp. 238, 25, 67. 
  6. ^ Dominic Streatfeild (2002). Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography. Thomas Dunne Books. p. 360. 
  7. ^ DEA History: Part 2 (PDF). United States Drug Enforcement Administration. 2003.