Rancho Bufalo

By Christopher Zoukis

In reality, the Colombian Cartels, while certainly potent entities, were simply federations of gangsters.

During the early 1980s, the Medellin cartel ran the bulk of its cocaine into North America through Florida.  It was nine-hundred-miles from Colombia to Florida.  Planes would drop water-proof loads of coke into the ocean off Florida.  Forty foot speedboats would pick it up and dash ashore with their valuable contents.  At other times, the planes would simply drop their loads onto the interior of Florida, where it would be met by trucks. 

Because of the amount of money at stake – billions of dollars – violence erupted in Miami-Dade County, as local distributors competed with one another.  Griselda Blanco was one such distributor.  Hailing from Colombia, Griselda Blanco began her criminal career as a child prostitute, and then graduated to kidnapping.  Seeing her chance, she moved to Florida, where she pushed cocaine.  Being a hardcore psychopath, murder was Griselda’s default mode.  Her tendency for killing secured her nickname – the Black Widow. 

The violence got so out of control that in 1982 President Ronald Reagan decided to do something about it.  Reagan gave approval for the South Florida Task Force.  The mission of the Task Force was to slug it out with the drug lords.  The Task Force, composed of the FBI, and elements of the army and navy, employed surveillance planes, helicopters, and boots on the ground.  Seizures of drug shipments accelerated.  The Medellin cartel lost millions of dollars to the seizures.  The cartel realized that something needed to be done.

Forced to find another way to move cocaine into the U.S., the Medellin cartel decided to go overland.  The cartel contacted Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the Mexican Godfather.  Gallardo, born in Culiacan, Sinaloa, began his business career as a young boy, hawking chickens and sausages.  Later, Gallardo joined the Federale, the Mexican national police.  Hired as a bodyguard for Leopoldo Sanchez Celis, who was the governor of Sinaloa, Gallardo met Pedro Aviles Perez, another of the governor’s bodyguards.  Perez moonlighted as a drug lord, controlling most of the marijuana and heroin smuggled into the U.S.  Perez was an innovator, being the first to use planes to transport drugs, along with liberal bribes to officials.  Felix Gallardo / Image courtesy fotos.eluniversal.com.mx

During a shootout with the Federales in 1978, Perez was killed.  Gallardo inherited the business, moving his product into the U.S. through Tijuana.  Because of his iron-fisted control over his kingdom, Gallardo was known as the Godfather.  The DEA was aware of Gallardo, but didn’t know how powerful he was.  In 1984, a DEA agent infiltrated Gallardo’s gang.  The agent’s name was Enrique ‘Kike’ Camarena.  Kike chummied up to Gallardo, while simultaneously providing intel to the DEA.  Because of Kike’s intel, the DEA convinced the Mexicans to launch a major offensive in remote Chihuahua.  With a force comprising 450 Mexican soldiers supported by armed helicopters, the Mexican army hit Rancho Bufalo, which was a 2,500 acre marijuana farm.  Rancho Bufalo was owned and operated by Gallardo.  The farm was decimated.