Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela is one of the most compelling villains in Narcos Season 3. One of the godfathers leading the powerful Cali Cartel, he doesn’t always agree with his brother’s desire for so-called surrender.
The Netflix series, Narcos, is based on a real story, although some of the scenes and plot details are fictionalized. What’s the story of the real Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela? Is he still alive? Where is he today? (Warning: Plot spoilers ahead.)
The real Miguel is currently incarcerated in a federal prison in the United States. According to federal prison records, Miguel Rodriguez-Orejuela, currently 73, is serving his time in a South Carolina prison called Edgefield.
Here’s Miguel’s entry in the federal prison database. His release date is not until 2030:
According to the Bureau of Prisons, Edgefield is “a medium security federal correctional institution with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp.”
Gilberto, Miguel’s brother and also a Cali Cartel godfather, is also incarcerated in a U.S. federal prison until 2030. He’s serving his time at a prison called Butner in North Carolina, according to the Bureau of Prisons database.
The Cali Cartel was as powerful as the series depicts; whereas Pablo Escobar fashioned himself as an outlaw, the Cali Cartel stayed in power through a massive network of bribes and political favors.
“Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, ages 67 and 63, each received 30 years in prison, after they pleaded guilty in a federal court in Miami to conspiring to import 200,000kg of cocaine into the US,” reported UK Metro in 2006. “They sacrificed themselves for their family,” said David O. Markus, attorney for Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, according to the news site. The brothers entered plea agreements agreeing to give up massive amounts of wealth in return for non-prosecution of some family members.
It was quite a downfall.
“The Cali cocaine barons weren’t interested in assassinating politicians who got in their way – instead they won them over and bribed their way into helpful alliances,” reports The Sun. According to Insight Crime, “During the height of their operations in the 1980s and 1990s, the Cali Cartel trafficked hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States and Europe and amassed a fortune worth an estimated $12 billion.”
According to CBS News, Cali “controlled about 80 percent of the world cocaine market after drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993. Their Cali-based empire moved multi-ton shipments of cocaine to the United States and across the globe.”
The real-life cartel was indeed led by Miguel, his brother, Gilberto, José “Chepe” Santacruz-Londoño, and Hélmer “Pacho” Herrera.
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In 2002, The Los Angeles Times reported that Gilberto had walked out of prison. The Associated Press story reported that the “former drug kingpin was freed…after serving only half his sentence, despite a U.S. effort to find evidence to support further charges — and possibly his extradition to the United States.” He was arrested in 1995 and sentenced to serve a prison term until 2010. After his 2002 release, he was recaptured in 2003. The ultimate downfall? Extradition to the U.S.
In 2014, the U.S. government removed “economic sanctions against over 300 people and entities linked to the organization,” reports InsightCrime, but left Gilberto and Miguel on the list.
Miguel’s son, William Rodriguez-Abadia (not the David in the movie), later wrote a book called “I Am the Son of the Cali Cartel.”
“I decided to write because I got tired of other people writing my story. I appear in more than eight books, my dad is in over 15, and what they have done is to turn this into a myth,” he told Tampa Media Group in 2014.
According to Tampa Media Group, Rodriguez-Abadia, at least in 2014, was living in Broward County, Florida. He ended up cooperating with federal authorities in the U.S., and getting a reduced sentence, the news site reports. He was shot, in 1996, but that was a year after his father’s arrest, and the news site says he helped run the cartel for a time after the arrests but later had a change of heart about cartel activities.
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