Kings of Cocaine Questions and Answers
by Guy Gugliotta, Jeff Leen

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Summary of Kings of Cocaine.

Kings of Cocaine is an extensive book about the billion-dollar drug trade. It focuses on the primary actors of the drug cartel, including Pablo Escobar. The authors provide us with vivid details about their lives and the effort, planning, and violence it took to make their cocaine business so profitable. We read graphic scenes of judges, reporters, and politicians being assassinated. We’re also told how America fumbled the chance to capture Escobar and Luis Ochoa Vasquez.

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We can provide a summary of the riveting nonfiction book Kings of Cocaine.

The book was written by two newspaper reporters: Guy Gugliotta and Jeff Leen. They wrote about the powerful Colombian cocaine cartel for the Miami Herald. Those articles form the basis for the book in question.

The book starts in 1979. We’re at the Dadeland Mall, which we’re told is the biggest shopping center in South Florida. There is a dramatic shootout between a local cocaine dealer German Jimenez Panesso and some men in a white truck.

As Gugliotta and Leen tell us, “There was a cocaine war going on, and Colombians had been turning up dead in Miami and surrounding Dade County for months.”

We then learn about the main men behind this drug war, including Pablo Esobar Gaviria, Luis Ochoa Vasquez, Carlos Lehder Rivas, and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha.

We learn details about them that highlight their individual personalities. We learn how Lehder loves the Beatles. He uses his cocaine money to commission Rodrigo Arenas Betancus—“Colombia’s finest sculptor”—to create a seven-foot tall statue of John Lennon.

We also learn how Lehder set up the transport and distribution networks that would enable the Colombians to move cocaine effectively and covertly.

We also read many grizzly scenes. The shootout in the mall was just the beginning. We read about the murders of reporters, politicians, and judges who tried to stop or shed light on the cocaine business.

We also learn how the United States fumbled a chance to arrest key members of the drug cartel. Gugliotta and Leen tell us about an American drug smuggler named Barry Seal. Seal was helping the Drug Enforcement Administration bring the Colombian cartels to justice.

However, it became apparent that the cartel was operating in Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas had taken power. The Sandinistas were socialists. The Ronald Regan administration—particularly Regan’s National Security Council advisor Oliver North—were trying to overthrow the Sandinistas .

To help gain support for their anti-Sandinista position, North leaked the information that the drug cartel was operating in Nicaragua to the press. That leak basically ended the possibility of Seal assisting in the capture of Escobar and Ochoa.

Indeed, throughout the book, we see the entanglement between politics, the rule of law, and money. We see how the cartel was able to gain favor with governments in Bahamas, Haiti, and Panama. They had so much money that they even volunteered to pay Colombian’s national debt, which was $13 billion.

While we read about the violence and brutality of the illegal cocaine business, we should be aware that legal companies are often connected to violence and brutality as well. You might want to look into Coca-Cola’s association with death squads or fast fashion’s link to slave labor.

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