Before there was Escobar, there was Griselda Blanco
Griselda Blanco was one of the most notorious Colombian cocaine drug lords of the 1970s and 1980s. The cruelty and success of her reign could only be rivaled by Pablo Escobar, who followed in her footsteps. While Escobar was stealing cars in Medellin, Griselda was building a cocaine empire in New York.
Nicknamed “The Godmother of Cocaine,” her vicious cruelty was almost unmatched; if you owed her money, she killed you. If she owed you money, she killed you. If you offended her somehow, she killed you. The total number of murders that Griselda was behind is still unknown, but it is estimated to be anywhere between 40 and 200 people.
Life in the Medellin Cartel
Griselda Blanco Restrepo was born in Cartagena, Colombia on February 15, 1943. Raised by an abusive mother, Blanco turned to a life of crime and prostitution at a young age. Not long after, she became involved with Colombia’s infamous Medellin Cartel, helping to push Colombian cocaine throughout the United States, specifically to New York, Miami and Southern California. Members of the cartel were able to smuggle large quantities of cocaine into the United States using special undergarments that Blanco had presumably designed and manufactured.
In the mid-1970s, Blanco left Colombia for New York. By this time, the infamous drug trafficker, now in her early 30s, was running a massive narcotics ring. But U.S. detectives were soon hot on Blanco’s trail: after authorities intercepted a shipment of 150 kilos cocaine in 1975, the biggest cocaine case in history at the time, Blanco and more than 30 of her partners were indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges. The investigation was dubbed “Operation Banshee,” and became known to law enforcement officers nationwide. Fearing capture, Blanco fled the country, returning to Colombia. It wasn’t long before she returned, this time settling in Miami.
Miami drug war
The return of Griselda Blanco to the US from Colombia caused the start of the Miami drug war.
This violent conflict between cocaine traffickers was characterized for the high-profile crime epidemic that swept the city of Miami in the 1980s. The law enforcement struggle to stop it led to the creation of the CENTAC 26 (Central Tactical Unit), a joint Miami-Dade Police Department and DEA anti-drug operation.
Blanco was involved in much of the gangland drug-related violence known as the Miami Drug War or the Cocaine Cowboy Wars that plagued Miami in the late 1970s and early 1980s when cocaine supplanted marijuana. The lawless and corrupt atmosphere of 80s Miami, primarily caused by Blanco’s operations, led to the gangsters being dubbed the “Cocaine Cowboys”, and their violent, murderous way of doing business and dealing with rivals led the media to declare the “Miami drug war”.
Assassination attempts and Arrest
Her distribution network, which spanned the United States, brought in US$ 80,000,000 per month. Her violent business style brought government scrutiny to South Florida, leading to the demise of her organization and the free-wheeling, high profile Miami drug scene of those times. In 1984, Blanco’s willingness to use violence against her Miami competitors, or anyone who displeased her, led her rivals to make repeated attempts to kill her. She moved to California to escape the assassination attempts.
On February 20, 1985, she was arrested by DEA agents in her home. Held without bail, Blanco was sentenced to more than a decade in jail. She continued to run her cocaine business while in jail. By pressuring one of Blanco’s lieutenants, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office obtained sufficient evidence to indict her for three murders. However, the case collapsed, largely due to technicalities, and Blanco was released from prison and deported to Colombia in 2004.
Blanco had four sons, three of whom were killed in Colombia after being deported following prison sentences in the United States. Blanco bore her youngest son, Michael Corleone Blanco by her lover Darío Sepúlveda; he left her in 1983, returning to Colombia, kidnapping Michael when he and Griselda disagreed over who would take custody. Blanco paid to have Sepúlveda assassinated in Colombia, and her son returned to her in Miami.
In the later years of her life, it is rumored that Blanco carried a clandestine, but passionate relationship with Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria. Several items in her later found diary linked him with the nicknames “Coque de Mi Rey” and “Polla Blanca”.
On September 3, 2012, at age 69, Blanco was murdered in her hometown of Medellin, Colombia. According to reports, two gunmen on motorcycles shot Blanco after she exited a butcher shop.