The Violent End of Josť Santacruz Londono:
Good Riddance!

"They say that one should not celebrate the death of a person.
However, there exist people in this world who are not honorable and bring no good at all to humanity. I have to admit that I feel good. I finally feel as if justice has been done.... All those involved in the crime are in jail save the author of the crime Josť Santacruz Londono. And now he has paid with his life."

Vicky de Dios Unanue
Widom of murdered journalist Manuel de Dios Unanue,
commenting on the shooting of Londono by Colombian police.


BOGOTA, Colombia - Police shot to death a fugitive leader of the Cali drug cartel on Tuesday, March 5, 1996, less than a week after the United States punished Colombia for lackluster anti-drug efforts.

Jose Santacruz Londono, the third-ranking member of the drug syndicate that supplies most of the world's cocaine, was shot on a road in the northwest city of Medellin, another major drug center, police said.

The billionairetrafficker, who escaped from prison two months ago, resisted arrest when police encountered him in a car, the RCN radio network reported.

''I'm very happy,'' said an elated Gen. Jose Serrano, the national police chief who directed an intense search for the drug trafficker. ''This is a sign we're not letting our guard down.''

Last week, President Clinton decided to cut off some U.S. aid to punish Colombia for not doing enough in its drug war. Allegations that President Ernesto Samper won office withdrug money affected the decision, but U.S. officials had said Santacruz's escape also would have a negative impact on the certification process.

Santacruz, 53, shamed Colombian law enforcement authorities on Jan. 11, 1996 by escaping Bogota's La Picota prison after about six months in jail. He drove out of the maximum-security prison's main gate in a car that resembled one driven by prosecutors, presumably with the help of accomplices on the inside.

Santacruz had been hiding out in Medellin because he thought police would be combing Cali, the cartel homebase where he owns hundreds of apartments and other properties, Serrano said.

''He never thought we would look for him there,'' Serrano said.

Medellin was the headquarters for drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose rival cartel fought a terrorist war against the Cali gang and the state for years. Security forces killed Escobar in a Medellin safehouse in December 1993.

Santacruz had been linked to drug trafficking since the 1970s and had been indicted in several U.S. cities.

He was believed responsible for the 1992 killing of journalist Manuel de Dios Unanue, who was investigating cartel operations in New York, as well as the murder of a Colombian state governor.

Five other leaders of the cartel, including reputed founders Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, were arrested last year. One trafficker, Victor Patino, was sentenced to nine years in jail and the others are awaiting trial.


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