Yesterday, a motorcycle-riding assassin pumped two bullets into the head of Griselda Blanco inside a Medellin, Colombia, butcher shop; ending the life of the queen of Miami’s violent Cocaine Cowboys era. It was a bloody cinematic ending for the 69-year-old retired cocaine trafficker who was insatiably fond of the gangster epic The Godfather — going as far as naming her youngest son Michael Corleone.
Longtime Blanco family friend Cristian Rios confirmed reports by Colombian news outlets that Blanco died from her wounds after she was transported to a nearby hospital. “It’s hard to comprehend right now,” he tells Riptide. “I’m hoping the reprisals end here.”
Two of her four sons were murdered while she was incarcerated in the 1980s and 1990s. She is survived by Michael, a 34-year-old Colombian American who is under house arrest in Miami while waiting for his trial on a cocaine trafficking charge from last year. “Michael is just beside himself,” Rios says. “No matter what people think of Griselda, she was still his mom.
According to the newspaper El Colombiano, a pair of suspects riding a motorcycle stopped at the open-air butcher shop, located in the Medellin neighborhood of Belen Parque. An unknown man riding on the back of the bike got off and walked toward Blanco. He fired two shots at her head from close range.
The report states Blanco had been in the shop for about 30 minutes with a pregnant ex-daughter-in-law who was not identified. Whoever was behind the hit may have wanted to send an ironic final message since Blanco is the reputed originator of motorcycle assassinations.
Known as la madrina, or the Godmother, Blanco was a pioneer in the coke trafficking industry during the 1970s and early 1980s. According to law enforcement, she oversaw a billion-dollar criminal organization that transported 3,400 pounds of perico a month into the United States. She revolutionized smuggling by developing her own line of underwear with secret compartments to stuff drugs into. Blanco solidified her place in Colombian cartel lore as the mentor to Pablo Escobar.
But Blanco was also known as a ruthless queen of death, accused of masterminding at least 40 homicides from Miami to New York, including the murder of a two-year-old boy. On February 7, 1982, Blanco hitmen fired at a car traveling on South Dixie Highway and SW 168th Street. The shooters missed their target, Jesus Castro, an ex-enforcer who had insulted her sons, but hit his boy Johnny twice in the head.
According to witness testimony from federal informant Max Mermelstein, an American who worked for the cartel, Blanco boasted about little Johnny’s murder, noting she was pleased that the child had been killed “because it would upset the father.”
She also earned another nickname: The Black Widow. Blanco was allegedly behind the murders of three husbands.
Blanco was arrested in 1985 on federal trafficking charges and convicted a year later. In 1994, she was charged in Miami-Dade criminal court for the murders of Johnny Castro and two drug dealers who were late with their payments to the Godmother. Four years later, when she was released from a California federal prison, Blanco pled no contest to the three slayings. She was transferred to a Florida correctional facility.
She would have faced the electric chair if the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office hadn’t bungled the case. Two of the prosecutor’s secretaries were busted having phone sex with star witness and ex-Griselda button man Jorge “Rivi” Ayala.
Following her release from prison and deportation to Colombia in 2004, Blanco became somewhat of a hip-hop cultural icon thanks to the Rakontur documentaries Cocaine Cowboys and Hustlin’ With the Godmother.
According to Rios, Blanco’s murderous exploits have been exaggerated by her former criminal associates who testified against her and the media. “People don’t understand that she was just a figurehead,” he says. “She’s not responsible for atrocities committed by others in her organization.”
Nevertheless, Rios acknowledged Blanco had made a lot of enemies, some of whom are still alive and may have still wanted to collect in blood. “Unfortunately, her past caught up with her,” he says.