Lord of the Skies

Lord of the Skies

by Ron Chepesiuk

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Overview

By all accounts, the man known as the Lord of the Skies should have been dead. Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the biggest drug dealer in México, maybe the world, along with his wife and six children, were dining at the Ochoa Bali Hai Restaurant, a chic seafood eatery in México City, when nearly a dozen stone-cold killers marched through the front door looking for him. They carried cases, which they opened to unload their machine guns and blast away.
It happened so quickly that Carrillo Fuentes' bodyguards could not react. As Carrillo Fuentes, his family, and shocked diners dove for cover, three of the drug lord's eight bodyguards were cut down in the hail of bullets.
An architect was also dining at the restaurant, and mistaking him for Carrillo Fuentes, their target, the killers riddled him with bullets. The Carrillo Fuentes family cowered under a table amidst the carnage. Finally, the shooting stopped. Satisfied that they had gotten their target, the hit squad turned around, marched out of the restaurant and drove off.
Later when the police arrived, none of the people in the restaurant could say for certain what exactly happened. And Carrillo Fuentes was not available to talk because, in the ensuing confusion, he, his family, and the surviving bodyguards casually walked out of the restaurant.
Five people were killed in the shootout and two others wounded. An innocent bystander waiting outside the restaurant for the valet to deliver his automobile was gunned down and killed. Martin Martínez Pantaleon, a 30-year old police officer, was also murdered trying to stop Carrillo Fuentes and his entourage from fleeing. The drug lord's driver ran over Martínez with their car, and then sprayed him with machine gun fire.
In a twist of fate, the low profile kept by Carrillo Fuentes saved his life. The Mexican authorities and Carrillo Fuentes' enemies knew who he was--the country's most notorious drug kingpin, a ruthless gangster whom Forbes magazine had recognized as one of the world's richest men, with a fortune estimated at nearly $25 billion. Carrillo Fuentes' nickname was Lord of the Skies, recognition of his pioneering use of old passenger jets to move multi-ton loads of cocaine from Colombia to México.
But only four photos of the drug lord were known to exist, and the fact that Carrillo Fuentes changed his appearance like some prima donnas change their apparel made the photos essentially worthless as a means of identification.
Moreover, Amado Carrillo Fuentes had corrupted a significant part of the establishment, from the country's presidency to the Mexican man and woman cop in the street, and this sad state of affairs made the drug lord virtually untouchable. Mexican drug traffickers also knew the Lord of the Skies because they had joined him in what became known as the Mexican Federation, a loosely knit smuggling cooperative in which Carrillo Fuentes and the members shared equipment, intelligence and smuggling routes instead of trying to kill each other. Colombia's drug kingpins from the country's powerful Medellín and Cali cartels knew Carrillo Fuentes because they had forged strategic alliances with him to move their illicit product to the drug-demand market in the U.S.
The U.S. authorities knew him, too, for his use of jumbo Boeing 727 airplanes to move tons of cocaine to the U.S. market and millions of dollars out of the U.S. to safe money laundering banking havens worldwide.
Soon after the attempted hit, speculation abounded as to who was behind it. One theory fingered Colombia's powerful Cali Cartel. It was true that the cartel had a close working relationship with Carrillo Fuentes, but their relationship suddenly soured in August 1993 when the Mexican navy seized more than nine tons of cocaine off the coast of Mazatlán, a Mexican resort town in the Sinaloa state. The Cali Cartel lost $20 million on the botched drug run, and it blamed an informant in Carrillo Fuentes' organization. But then the speculation went, Carrillo Fuentes was too valuable a partner, so the Cali Cartel swallowed its loss and quickly patched things up.
The authorities soon had a better suspect. Word leaked that the hitmen were actually badge-carrying cops on the payroll of Juan García Abrego, the powerful leader in México's Gulf Cartel and a bitter rival of Carrillo Fuentes. At the time, Garcia Abrego was México's most wanted drug lord and on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List, with a U.S. reward offer of $2 million for his capture. Yet, despite being hunted, García Abrego wanted Carrillo Fuentes out of the way, snitches told authorities, and so he had arranged the hit.
But although Carrillo Fuentes had a reputation for being a gangster who favored negotiating over assassination, the authorities knew Carrillo Fuentes' penchant for violence. The assassins had broken an unwritten rule of the Mexican drug smuggling world:

Product Details

BN ID: 2940157802103
Publisher: Strategic Media Books
Publication date: 03/03/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 654 KB

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