Escobar partner Carlos Lehder, coca cowboy, leaves prison after 33 years (and retires to Germany)

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Charlie the madman has returned home, although he has never lived in Germany. But this reserved fate for Carlos Lehder, one of the most famous exponents of narco-trafficking: released from a US prison he moved to his father’s country of origin. Very far from Colombia and from the raids that made it known. Clever, intelligent, but also “crazy”, Lehder was the protagonist of the season of the “Cocaine Cowboys”. He extended the smuggling network, sent tons of drugs to the United States, acted alongside the king, Pablo Escobar, and was then probably betrayed by the latter.

Carlos was an innovator: he bought a small island in the Bahamas – Norman’s Cay – just 340 kilometers from Florida and has transformed it into a base for its planes. Aircraft loaded with white powder tiles, the gold of the Medellin cartel. A tactic later used by the lord of heaven, the Mexican Amado Carrillo Fuentes, and still used today by clandestine organizations. Much more numerous than in those years, fierce and global, in some aspects even more brazen. Son of a German immigrant and a Colombian, Lehder attracted attention for his criminal genius, wild parties, passionate loves, admiration for Hitler, hatred for the Jews, the fascination with John Lennon, the weak for Coca Cola, for him “the only good thing about imperialism”.

A life to the fullest, a life beyond all limits within a world where cunning, cruelty, determination and guns count. Like other gangsters, he built the defensive narrative: drugs – he said – are used to take money from the rich and destroy decadent society in the United States. A “revolutionary” interpretation of illegality, a way of covering bloodthirsty gestures. The “Colombians”, those bad Colombians, have set up an immense empire, defended by hired assassins and men, among beautiful women, strips of coca, luxurious residences, furnished with extravagances, including personal zoo. A kingdom then told by the media and today represented by the TV series, inexhaustible because they are fed by a gigantic crime news archive. Crazy Charlie was its top interpreter, until his capture in 1987.

Escaped an attack in his villa, he took refuge in a hiding place suggested by Escobar and that’s where they took him. Extradited to America, he is sentenced to life in prison, the sentence will later be reduced to 55 years thanks to his testimony against the Panamanian general Manuel Noriega, another character who ended up in a thousand stories, including secret agents, strategies and the underworld. Lehder, 70, has no intention of returning to Colombia. According to her daughter, she is cancer patient and will follow a course of treatment in a German hospital. A final chapter very different from that of Escobar, who fell in a gun fight with the police in 1993. The final battle to avoid extradition to the United States, the solution most feared by the godparents. Unfortunately they have taught, they have shown a way to other “crazy” people, from Mexico to Brazil.

June 18, 2020 (change June 18, 2020 | 12:35)

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