Roberto Suárez Goméz
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|Roberto Suárez Goméz|
|Born||8 January 1932|
Trinidad, Beni, Bolivia
|Died||20 July 2000 (aged 68)|
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
|Other names||King of Cocaine|
El Padrino (The Godfather)
El Robin Hood del Beni (The Robin Hood of Beni)
|Successor||Jorge Roca Suarez|
Gary Suárez Levy
Heidy Suárez Levy
Harold Suárez Levy
|Parent(s)||Nicomedes Suarez and Blanca Gomez Roca|
|Criminal charge||Drug trafficking and smuggling|
|Penalty||15 years imprisonment|
Roberto Suárez Goméz (January 8, 1932 – July 20, 2000), sometimes spelled Roberto Suárez Gómez, also known as the King of Cocaine, was a Bolivian drug lord and trafficker who played a major role in the expansion of cocaine trafficking in Bolivia. At his prime, Suárez made $400 million annually, was one of the major suppliers of the Medellin Cartel as well as the leader of the largest Bolivian drug empire, and was considered to be the biggest cocaine producer in the world.
Born to a prominent family, Suárez entered the drug trade and made millions from cocaine in the 1970s and 1980s. He is known for financing the 1980 coup d'état, known as the "Cocaine Coup", and was a major supplier of cocaine for various criminal organizations. Suárez was arrested in 1988 and sentenced to 15 years in prison but released after serving half his sentence. He died in July 20, 2000 from a heart attack.
Suárez was born on January 8, 1932 to a wealthy cattle-ranching family in the tropical Beni Department of Bolivia. His parents were Nicomedes "Cattle King" Suárez Franco and Blanca Goméz Roca. Suárez was the descendant of the Suárez brothers "rubber barons", famous for expanding the rubber trade worldwide, expanding westernization in the Bolivian northern Amazon and for singlehandedly financing the Columna Porvenir, during the Acre war with Brazil.
In the 1970s, Suárez first entered into the cocaine trade to conducting business with the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and after that he started to recruit Bolivian coca producers into his company "La Corporación" (the Corporation). Suárez had a fleet of aircraft, primarily the Cessna 206 and the Douglas DC-3, which flew cocaine shipments from the Bolivian Amazon to Colombia, selling the cocaine at $9,000 per kilogram.
Suárez's wife Ayda Levy recounted in detail that Fidel Castro and Raul Castro contacted Suárez and Escobar in January 1983 and invited them to Cuba. Upon visiting the island nation, Castro had planned to use drugs as a weapon against "Yankee imperialism". Fidel and Raul charged millions of dollars per day in exchange for giving coverage to cocaine trafficking and the use of airports for refueling airplanes. In self-defense against the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Suárez established his own private air force, as well as a private army of 1,500 soldiers and Libyan-trained bodyguards.
With aid from the Argentine military dictatorship, Suárez financed the military coup and bankrupted the government, which collapsed. The coup installed a dictatorship in 1980, in which Luis García Meza would be President and Suárez's cousin Luis Arce Gómez was Minister of the Interior, and so he received political protection for his enterprise Arce Gómez ordered the killings of many Bolivians, including union leaders and intellectuals such as Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz. According to some sources, the CIA knew about the coup in advance. During the 1980s, Suárez' relationship with Escobar slowly deteriorated because of Escobar's murderous activities, which contrasted with Suárez using violence only as a last resort.
In 1981, Suárez's favored son Roberto "Robby" Levy was arrested in Switzerland and extradited to the United States. In a letter to Ronald Reagan in 1983, Suárez offered to pay Bolivia's foreign debt of more than $3 billion if he and his son got amnesty. Suárez continued to be under the protection of the DEA and the Bolivian military government through most of the 1980s until his activities became too notorious.
Arrest and release
On July 20, 1988, Suárez was arrested by the Bolivian National Police and his hacienda was raided; more than one and a half tons of cocaine was found. He was sentenced to 15 years in the San Pedro prison for drug trafficking but only served 7 years and was released in 1996 due to accounts of good behavior and declining health, having suffered two heart attacks in prison. His nephew and successor, Jorge Roca Suarez (known as "Techo de Paja"), was also serving a 30-year sentence in the United States for drug trafficking. During his time in prison, Suárez was said to have shown regret for his crimes, had found religious faith in jail and preferred to be photographed next to images of Jesus Christ. Suárez had lost most of his fortune, spent on the construction of buildings and other philanthropic activities. He spent the remaining years of his life managing his hacienda.
Suárez owned various lavish homes in Bolivia, including a hacienda known as "El Mosquito" ("The Mosquito"), in northern Bolivia and an armored palace in Santa Ana del Yacuma. His family owned more than 16 million acres of farmland, which he used for cattle ranching, farming and sometimes airstrips. He gained popularity by building churches, hospitals, streets in rural villages and soccer fields. In his hometown province of Beni, Suárez was most popular around the locals and often called "Robin Hood". His Robin Hood image gained popularity and protection with the Bolivian government and the Roman Catholic Church.
Suárez married Ayda Levy in 1958 and had four children; Roberto, Gary, Heidy and Harold Suárez Levy. The couple split after Levy discovered his involvement in the drug trade but remained on good terms. Suárez was heavily involved in politics. Suárez's son, Roberto "Robby" Levy, was killed by Bolivian police and DEA agents on March 22, 1990 in Santa Cruz.
Death and legacy
On Thursday evening, July 20, 2000, Suárez died from a heart attack in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Weeks before his death, in a TV interview, Suárez repented his crimes and stated "The worst mistake I ever made in my life was to have gotten involved in cocaine trafficking". Suárez was buried in a small niche in Cochabamba.
The character Alejandro Sosa in the 1983 American crime film Scarface and the 2006 video game Scarface: The World Is Yours has been inspired from Suárez. On November 21, 2012, Suárez's ex-wife Ayda Levy published an account of his life, entitled "The King of Cocaine: My Life With Roberto Suárez And The Birth Of The First Narco-State".
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