Carmen: Did Griselda Blanco’s Friend Become A Real-Life State Witness?


It is said that Griselda Blanco was the biggest female distributor of the Medellin cartel, even though she didn’t have any blood ties with the Ochoa family. It wasn’t easy for an outsider like Griselda, especially as a woman, to get into the inner circle of the mafia family, yet she managed to create a legacy of her own. Griselda grew up during the horrific times of La Violencia and suffered sexual violence at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend at the age of 13. Some years later, the woman fled from her mother’s house and turned to a life of prostitution, where she befriended several women and also met her first husband, Carlos Trujillo. The Netflix series introduced three prominent women from Griselda’s past, namely Carmen Rivera, Isabel, and Carla, who are all fictional characters based on several sex workers that Griselda used to work with. While there is no hard evidence to prove that any of Griselda’s friends owned a travel agency named Coral Gables, Griselda did learn the art of document forgery and transporting illegal immigrants from her first husband.

The Netflix series also made us aware of the fact that Griselda could relate to the hardships of these women in a man’s world (referring to La Violencia), and therefore, she gave these women a respectable job in her new empire in Miami. Carmen Rivera, too, shed her initial skepticism about entering the cocaine trade again and finally became a part of it. But Carmen was a simple woman who knew when and where to draw boundaries, unlike the ambitious Griselda, who didn’t know where the line was. In real life, there was one state witness named Carmen Caban, whose sister, Gloria, used to work for Griselda and smuggled drugs for her from Colombia. The real-life women who worked closely with Griselda were Lilia Parada and Olga Perdomo, who not only became the transporters of drugs but also manipulated or lured men into the business to turn things in Griselda’s favor. It could be deemed that three important characters, featured in the Netflix series, including Carmen, were based on these Colombian women, who later became state witnesses and testified against Griselda in court. As per the police reports, both Carmen and Gloria (whose real names were Amparo and Gilman Atehortua, respectively) wanted to see their kids, which was why they cooperated with the DEA. In return, they received visas for their families and a shortened sentence of seven years in prison. Other than these two women, there is nothing connecting Carmen, Isabel, and Carla to their real-life counterparts, but Carmen’s character does play an important role in Griselda’s downfall, which we want to explore further.

Why Did Carmen Become a State Witness?

June Hawkins, a key member of the CENTAC 26 task force, raided one of Griselda’s stash houses so as to force The Godmother to take impulsive actions against her men and give the police an opportunity to arrest her for her crimes. After the raid, June found out that it was Carmen’s company, Coral Gables Travels, that had rented the property under a lease contract, which gave Miami PD enough evidence to put Carmen behind bars. However, Carmen, being an intelligent woman, knew that June was bluffing, and she could easily evade the charges; yet something happened that turned her against Griselda Blanco.

I want to bring up the horrors of Griselda’s past once again to establish the fact that the root of Griselda’s sociopathic tendencies and paranoia was a childhood incident when her mother’s boyfriend raped her. Griselda never forgot the incident, which was why she kept fighting against the monsters in the world, which were embodied by the controlling men in her case. From time to time, the Netflix series explored Griselda’s stance on feminism. She had killed her first husband, Carlos Trujillo, because he was abusive to her. Alberto Bravo, on the other hand, had sold off her dignity, which compelled Griselda to take the necessary action against him. A similar thing happened with Dario Sepulveda, whom Griselda suspected of cheating on her with her own secretary. Even though Dario was innocent in this case, Griselda’s paranoia and PTSD over her past experiences took the wheel. In her pursuit to find and kill the monster, Griselda lost her way and eventually became one.

Carmen, being a woman who knew Griselda from the inside out, wanted to help her best friend and save her from drowning herself in misery. It was the peak of Griselda’s career and the right moment to depart the world of crime and spend the rest of her days in an isolated corner of the world. Griselda had proven to the patriarchal underworld that a woman can indeed rule hell with grace. But one cannot fly too close to the sun and not turn to ash. It is the mark of a genius to understand when to retire and step down with dignity, but Griselda didn’t know any of it.

When Carmen finally told Griselda that CENTAC had seized her property and threatened to arrest her, the self-centered godmother, instead of helping her friend in need, suspected her of being a mole. Carmen was inactive for the time being, but when Griselda shot Chucho Castro’s young son, Carmen knew that it was time to put an end to Griselda, or else the monster in her would burn the entire city to the ground. Soon after the tragic shootout, Carmen stepped into the Miami PD’s office and became a state witness.

What Happened to Carmen After Her Arrest?

Even though Carmen Rivera had taken the DA’s offer and turned herself in, she couldn’t provide any incriminating evidence against Griselda, just like her real-life counterparts. Her testimony wasn’t enough to get Griselda the death penalty or lifetime imprisonment. Much like the real-life events, Carmen wasn’t involved in Griselda’s killing spree or knew anything about the hundreds of murders she had committed. She, like the other girls in her gang, only managed the day-to-day cocaine business, while enforcers like Jorge ‘Rivi’ Ayala took care of the darker side of the trade. In the end, Miami PD put Carmen in a witness protection program and offered her a short sentence for her testimony. It was most likely that after spending her time in prison, Carmen went back to managing her travel company to live a peaceful life thereafter.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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