José Santacruz Londoño
|Born||October 1, 1943
Santiago de Cali, Colombia
|Died||March 5, 1996
|Other names||Chepe, Don Chepe|
José Santacruz-Londoño (1 October 1943 – 5 March 1996) was a Colombian drug lord. Along with Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela and Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, Santacruz-Londoño was a leader of the Cali Cartel. The trio was profiled in a TIME cover story in July 1991.
Santacruz-Londoño and Rodríguez Orejuela brothers formed the Cali cartel in the 1970s. They were primarily involved in marijuana trafficking. In the 1980s they branched out into cocaine trafficking. For a time the Cali Cartel supplied 70% of the United States and 90% of the European cocaine market.
The Cali Cartel was less violent than its rival, the Medellín Cartel. While the Medellín Cartel was involved in a brutal campaign of violence against the Colombian government the Cali Cartel grew. The cartel was much more inclined toward bribery rather than violence. However, after the demise of the Medellín Cartel the Colombian authorities turned their attention to the Cali cartel. The campaign began in the summer of 1995.
Several Cali Cartel leaders were also arrested during the summer of 1995. Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela was arrested on June 9. Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela was arrested on August 6.
Santacruz Londoño was arrested on July 4, 1995. However, he escaped on January 11, 1996 La Picota Prison in Bogotá. The motives of his escaping were attributed to a number of reasons: First of all, he was in charge of consolidating the network of hitmen and armed men of the cartel, for which he established an alliance with old members of the Medellín Cartel. Second, he was to exert more control over some of the smuggling networks, which were acting more independently since the leaders of the cartel went to prison. Finally, he coordinated the assassination of about 27 people who would be potential witnesses against him and some of the other capos of the cartel, and apparently was arranging for the assassination of important figures of the government. According to the official version of his death, police had tracked him down to Medellín, and they received an anonymous phone call on March 5, 1996, informing them of the presence of Santacruz in a shopping mall. He was followed after he left the mall and was killed while attempting to flee, as the police stopped his car. A second version of his death became known afterJavier Antonio Calle Serna, drug-trafficker and leader of the Los Rastrojos organization who is in prison in the United States, made public his written memories. In them, Calle Serna argued that, instead, Santacruz's death was orchestrated by paramilitary groups under the instigation of Danilo González, a colonel from Colombia's police who had originally fought against Pablo Escobar, and then became an associate of the cartel members.