Friday, May 4, 2018

A New Life for Narco Properties

El Mexicano's old walled property near La Zona Rosa,will soon host the Chinese embassy.
During past decades, Bogotá was home to numerous properties which everybody knew belonged to narcos, altho few people were likely to say so out loud. Today, with the cocaine trade booming once again, Bogotá is likely newly awash in drug money, altho much less conspicuously.

Villa Adelaida, as seen from the street,
will soon house a restaurant.
Meanwhile, some of those narcoproperties of decades past are finding new lives. The 'Mexicano's' old high-walled estate located just north of the Zona Rosa was recently purchased by the Chinese government and is to be their new embassy site. The Mexicano's old wall could be useful for keeping out anybody inclined to protest against China's many human rights violations.

El Mexicano, whose birth name was José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha, was actually Colombian, but liked Mexican music and Mexican money, earning him the nickname. He started out as a hired assassin for emerald kingpins, but decided that drug trafficking was more profitable and became a member of the Medellin Cartel, along with Pablo Escobar. El Mexicano may have been even more brutal than Escobar, and eventually unleashed a brutal battle for control against his old friends in the emerald business. He was killed by Colombian police in 1989.

Not far away, on Calle 70 and Carrera 7a, La Quinta Villa Adelaida has stood rotting away for decades. Built in 1914 by Agustín Nieto Caballero, founder of the nearby Gimnasio Moderno, a high school for children of the traditional conservative elite, the huge house later became the Baron Club,  the site of expensive carousing. However, the club's owner, Manuel Abajo Abajo, a Spanish citizen, was arrested in 1987 for narcotrafficking and sentenced to nearly a decade in prison.
Villa Adelaida in its glory days.
The house passed to control of the government, and has been under renovation the last several years. Plans for the property have included a hotel and shopping mall - but ran into opposition from neighbors, who feared more traffic jams. Next year, if all goes according to plan, an expensive restaurant will open in Villa Adelaida.

Do more narco properties remain in Bogotá? Undoubtedly, many do. However, today's narcos have learned to live less conspicuously to not make themselves targets of authorities and rival cartels. At the same time, the Mexican cartels have taken the most profitable retail trade away from the Colombians, and the Colombian drug traffickers which remain have shifted their centers of operations the big cities to rural areas near the coasts and borders.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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