A former associate of Pablo Escobar was killed in Colombia’s second-largest city, leading to speculation that he continued to traffic drugs long after the fall of the Medellín Cartel.
José Antonio Ocampo, alias “Pelusa,” was murdered in Medellín on April 22, reported Semana. Pelusa had allegedly served as a key associate of Pablo Escobar’s now-defunct Medellín Cartel.
Pelusa had been captured by Colombian authorities at an estate in Necoclí, in the department of Antioquia, in December 1989. At the time, the police described him as one of the most important figures in the Medellín cartel, the New York Times reported.
In June 1992, however, Pelusa reportedly survived an attempt on his life by Escobar, and eventually joined the infamous “Doce del Patíbulo,” a group of drug traffickers who fought the Medellín Cartel’s leader until his death in December 1993, according to Ruta Noticias.
After the cartel’s fall, Pelusa’s presence in Antioquia, particularly in the Urabá region, was reportedly linked with right-wing paramilitary groups, and eventually the Urabeños, now Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking organization.
Pelusa was reportedly shot by unidentified men at a gas station along the Via de Las Palmas, in Medellín. The city’s security secretary, Gustavo Villegas, said there were no outstanding charges against him, reported Noticias Caracol.
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The Medellín Cartel was significantly weakened following Escobar’s death in 1993, but many associates of the legendary drug lord continued to successfully operate undetected in subsequent years. Pelusa appears to have been one of them.
However, Pelusa was not a high-profile figure like Escobar. Rather, it is more likely that he was an “invisible” — a term used to describe long-time drug traffickers who survived the fall of the Colombian cartels and continued working with various organized crime groups in the country.
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Other Colombian traffickers have followed the same strategy. For example, Juan Carlos Mesa Vallejo, alias “Tom,” rose from being a mid-level gangster in a criminal organization known as Los Chatas to one of the leaders of the Oficina de Envigado, which is considered a successor to the Medellín Cartel. The US Treasury Department believes Tom now works as the main link between the Oficina and the Urabeños, and is responsible for managing the relationships between the two groups.