Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, Colombian drug kingpin, dies in prison

The leader of the now-defunct Cali cartel, which smuggled cocaine into the US in the 1980s and 1990s, has died


JAVIER GALEANO/Associated Press

Colombian drug trafficker Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela leaves the Combita maximum security prison, in Tunja, Colombia on Nov. 7, 2002.

MIAMI — Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, an elderly leader of the former Cali cartel that smuggled vast amounts of cocaine from Colombia to the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, has died in a U.S. prison, his lawyer said Wednesday.

In 2020, a judge denied Rodríguez Orejuela, who was in his 80s, early release on compassionate grounds from a prison in Butner, North Carolina.

Rodríguez Orejuela and his brother, Miguel, built a huge criminal enterprise that succeeded the Medellin cartel once run by drug lord Pablo Escobar.

The Rodríguez Orejuela brothers were captured in 1995 and imprisoned in Colombia.

The brothers continued to traffic from prison and criminal charges were filed in Miami and New York. In 2004, Gilberto was extradited; Miguel was extradited the next year.

Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela’s prison release date was scheduled for Feb. 9 2030. His younger brother is serving his sentence at a Pennsylvania prison.

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