June 17, 2020 — Infamous Narcos boss Carlos Lehder was released from a U.S. federal prison this week and deported to Germany. The 70-year old Lehder was Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s chief smuggler for his Medillen Cartel, the main supplier of cocaine into North America from the late 1970s into the early 1990s, and did more than three decades behind bars. Some historians point to him as the root of the term “Cocaine Cowboy,” a label bestowed upon particularly reckless, lavish-living drug dons of the era.
Lehder, who was half German and half Colombian, was arrested in 1987 and convicted of drug conspiracy charges at trial a year later. He received a sentence reduction for aiding the U.S. government in their effort to bring down Panamanian President Manuel Noriega. His Norman’s Cay island-getaway headquarters in the Bahamas served as the Medillen Cartel’s distribution hub, a halfway point from where the drugs were manufactured and packaged in Colombia and subsequently brought onto American soil through South Florida in a fleet of aircraft flown by U.S trained pilots.
While operating from his lawless tropical paradise, Lehder dressed in fatigues and had his own paramilitary group as his security force, earning him the nickname “Rambo,” in reference to Sly Stallone’s one-man army in the Rambo film series. Lehder was an avid collector of Adolph Hitler and Nazi Party memorabilia and developed a severe cocaine habit, making him difficult for Escobar to manage and, according to underworld lore, leading Escobar to turn him into authorities by divulging the location of his safe house.
Pablo Escobar died in a hail of bullets in a shootout with the DEA and Colombian police on the rooftop of a private residence in Medillen in 1993. In the 2001 Johnny Depp film Blow, the character of “Diego” was based on Lehder. Juan Riedinger played Lehder in the hit Netlfix show Narcos (2015-2018).
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