A murderous chameleon. How drug queen Griselda became a Netflix star

A murderous chameleon. How drug queen Griselda became a Netflix star
A murderous chameleon. How drug queen Griselda became a Netflix star
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“I don’t wish death on anyone, but if anyone deserved the ultimate punishment, it was her,” said US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Robert Palombo, who spent eleven years trying to catch her, about the “godfather of cocaine.”

Griselda received special recognition from the legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar, who “was not afraid of any man as much” as his colleague from the drug underworld.

Griselda’s whole life was accompanied by violence. She was born in 1943 in Colombia, grew up in Medellin, which, thanks to her contribution, became the center of the Colombian drug mafia. Her mother was an alcoholic prostitute who beat her daughter. Griselda reportedly followed suit and became a sex worker herself at the young age of thirteen.

Soon she also embarked on the path of crime. At eleven, she kidnapped a ten-year-old boy from a wealthy family. When she seriously rejected her threats and did not want to pay the ransom, she shot the boy in the head.

She met her first husband and mentor Carlos Trujillo, a small-time document forger struggling with alcoholism, on the street. The couple moved to New York with their three sons in the 1960s. In addition to creating fake identity documents, she became involved in the drug business. So far, slowly, by selling small amounts of marijuana.

She divorced her first husband. In the early 1970s, she moved to Miami, where her second husband, drug trafficker and member of the Medellin Cartel, Alberto Bravo, introduced her to the more lucrative and darker industry of drug sales. Griselda quickly realized that interest in marijuana was declining, but cocaine had a future.

While building a drug empire, Griselda came up with creative methods to get the drug from the south to the north of the American continent. She set up a lingerie store in Colombia. Bras and panties had secret parts sewn into them where cocaine could be hidden.

The new flood of cocaine has not escaped the attention of federal authorities. The DEA indicted Griselda, her husband, and dozens of other people for drug smuggling as part of Operation Banshee (1974), one of the first of its kind. But before she could arrest them, the married couple fled back to Colombia.

Back in Latin America, there was an incident, according to The Guardian, “remarkable for its violence even among hardened Colombian drug criminals.” In the parking lot of a nightclub in Bogotá, Griselda confronted her husband, accusing him of robbing her of the millions of dollars their cartel was making. The tension escalated into an armed confrontation, during which Alberto pulled out an Uzi submachine gun and Griselda, the woman, pulled out a pistol. Bravo and his six bodyguards did not survive the shootout. His wife did, although she suffered an abdominal injury.

Black Widow Murders and Orgies

Without a man to command respect through his gender alone in the machismo, patriarchal world of Colombian drug lords, her husband’s murder may have seemed to end her career as a drug lord. The opposite was true. Griselda returned to the US and began writing one of the bloodiest chapters in Florida history in Miami.

Her special killers, the so-called Pistoleros, spread terror with brutal violence. They admitted only one who brought a part of his victim’s body as evidence of a murderous act into their ranks. The specialty was killing from motorbikes, which became the hallmark of their boss.

According to the book Drugs in American Society, Griselda was responsible for most of the murders in South Florida between 1979 and 1981. More than 200 killings are attributed to her. Some just because someone gave her the wrong look. In one case, the killers shot dead the two-year-old son of her ex-enforcer, who had earned her ire by allegedly insulting her sons.

“At first she was really upset because we missed dad. But when she found out that we had a son by accident, she said that she was happy that they were happy,” her favorite assassin Jorge Ayala later described the reaction of her boss.

Griselda had her first husband killed as well as her third, Daría Sepúlveda, with whom she had a fourth child, named after the main character of the novel and film The Godfather, Michael Corleone. Sepúlveda tried to get his son out of his wife’s criminal world, but she took it very badly. She earned the nickname Black Widow for the murders of her husbands.

The lucrative cocaine market made her a huge fortune. She reportedly earned $80 million a month. She used the money to organize drug-fueled orgies, had sex with young women she hired to help her sleep. She forced some partygoers to have sex at gunpoint.

Chameleon chase with hunters

Although she was undoubtedly a criminal queen, she managed to hide effectively from the prying eyes of the police trying to prevent her bloody business. She lost and gained weight, wore different hairstyles, and had different false identities.

“Griselda never came up on the radar. Her name was mentioned, but we never physically saw her,” Palombo recalled of the futile effort to catch the mysterious leader of the cartel plaguing Miami.

Palombo admitted that even though he later knew who it was, she managed to trick him with her transformations. When he first saw her in person, she looked like a well-kept, well-groomed middle-aged American. In a few months, she looked “180 degrees different”, with bad hair, terrible make-up and a neglected appearance. “A chameleon that changes at will,” the DEA agent described her.

In 1983, her sons led the federal authorities on the trail of the crime boss. A concerned mother of a white woman complained to the police that she was associating with a suspected Latino. The untrustworthy-looking man was Uber Blanco. He and his brothers (except little Michael) joined the family business and moved in the American underworld. For investigators, they were a way to uncover their mother’s address and life.

The network started to download. Tracking the drug queen, collecting evidence and giving statements – all this culminated on February 17, 1985, when Palombo and his team came to arrest Griselda. “At that moment she was lying in bed reading the Bible,” he describes meeting the woman he had been trying to get on the grass for years in vain.

She looked at the intruder with a shocked expression on her face. She had a gun by the messenger on the nightstand, but she didn’t try to reach for it.

“Griselda, we finally meet,” the agent told her. He made her stand up and planted a kiss on her cheek. As he drove her to the police station, the merciless woman began to shake.

After her arrest, the number of murders dropped dramatically.

Poetic justice

At trial, she received fifteen years in prison, just for drug trafficking. When she stood trial again on charges of three murders and threatened to end up in the electric chair, there was an incredible twist. The prosecutor’s secretary had phone sex with a key witness, hit man Ayala. The prosecution thus lost all credibility. The death penalty was commuted and Griselda was set free in 2004.

While she was behind bars, her three sons were killed. Only Michael remained alive. And although Griselda had many enemies and herself expected to perish after returning to Colombia, her demise did not occur until 2012, much later than expected. She was shot dead by an unknown motorcycle driver who shot Griselda twice in the head at a butcher shop in Medellin.

She died through the killing technique she helped popularize, which has a certain “poetic justice,” pointed out Drug Trafficking in America author and University of Miami professor of international studies Bruce Bagley. Even before the announcement of the series on Netflix, he predicted that the dynamic story would be taken up by Hollywood with pleasure.

“The danger is that she will not be remembered for her cold-bloodedness and brutality, but for being a female entrepreneur in an emerging, male-dominated industry,” Bagley warned.

And indeed, the creators of the series emphasized many times that Griselda moved in a very chauvinistic environment. “She’s a woman in a man’s world, working ten times harder to get ahead and using her wit and intelligence to outsmart the men around her,” said co-director Andrés Baiz. “People start rooting for her.”

The article is in Czech

Tags: murderous chameleon drug queen Griselda Netflix star

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