Real-Life Rafa Salazar: Why did Griselda Kill Marta Ochoa? How Did Rafa Die?

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More than anything else, Griselda Blanco wanted power. She wanted to prove that even a woman who is often deemed fragile had the fire to rule a man’s world and burn it down if she was denied her dreams. After killing her husband, Alberto Bravo, Griselda moved to Miami because it was one of the cities in the free world where she had contact. Unwillingly, Carmen helped Griselda start from scratch, but Griselda’s greed for power brought her back into the drug business. She established a new empire in Miami, which was an eyesore for the drug lords sitting in high chairs in Medellin, who sent one of their most trusted men, Rafa or Rafael Antonio Cardona Salazar, to buy “Griselda Blanco” and the empire that she had built. In real life, Rafa was a representative of the Ochoa Vasquez family, who wanted to expand the territory of the Medellin Cartel and turn the entire United States into a lucrative cocaine market. In America, Rafa worked with a Jewish American engineer named Max Mermelstein. While Rafa took on the responsibility of overseeing the distribution of the product, Mermelstein looked after the smuggling. Being an engineer, he coined methods to import drugs into the United States of America without detection.


What led to a rivalry between Rafa and Griselda?

As soon as Rafa turned his eyes towards Miami, all he could see was a woman rising from the ashes. He couldn’t help but bring Griselda to Norman’s Cay, Bahamas, so that he could make her an offer she couldn’t refuse. It was evident from the very beginning that Rafa, being a chauvinist, didn’t want to do business with a woman, which was why he was ready to pay 15 million dollars so that she would hand over her territories in Miami to other distributors. Rafa already had these distributors on their knees, and none of them had enough guts to say no to the Medellin Cartel. But Griselda refused to comply, thereby giving rise to one of the most brutal gang wars in Miami that turned the beach city into the Wild West. Evidently, Griselda had upset the wrong people, but the woman was ready to face the consequences. It was during these times that the most infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobar, came to know about Griselda Blanco.

Rafa was slowly turning Griselda’s associates in Miami against her to create his own footing, which made him the target of Griselda’s wrath. Two hitmen brutally murdered Herman Jiminez Panesso, leading to the Dade County Shopping Mall Massacre, which marked the beginning of the “Cocaine Cowboys Wars.” Though the Netflix series portrayed that it was Griselda’s men who took out Jiminez or German Panesso, in reality, there were too many threads attached to his death, and the exact reason for his murder is still unknown. Perhaps, the Ochoa brothers didn’t want to continue the rivalry with Griselda and therefore made a truce with the lady, therefore making her a part of the Medellin Cartel, as shown in the Netflix series.


How Did Rafa Come Under The Police Radar?

Rafa was a slum kid from Colombia who made his way to the top, and while handling the crucial drug trade in America, Max Mermelstein became his most trusted ally. Rafa trusted Mermelstein because the Jewish American was married to a Colombian woman, Lara Hernandez, who happened to be Pablo Escobar’s cousin. However, after Mermelstein’s arrest, the man betrayed the Colombians to find a way out of the mess.

Mermelstein didn’t just become a state witness. He revealed all the trade secrets in so much detail that his testimony became a turning point in the history of drug wars in America. With the help of the intel, the authorities busted the entire operation of the Medellin Cartel in Miami, including the arrest of prominent names in the business, such as Griselda Blanco and Jon Roberts. He even testified to Rafa’s involvement in Barry Seal’s murder, who had previously become a DEA informant and leaked images of the import of cocaine in America.


Why did Griselda kill Marta Ochoa?

As mentioned in the Netflix series, Rafa had been dating Ochoa’s first cousin, Marta Ochoa Salderriega, which isn’t true. But Marta was definitely an important figure in the cartel business, as mafia lords often trusted their own bloodlines instead of outsiders. According to Mermelstein, it was Marta who conducted business with Miami’s drug godmother and, therefore, the two became close friends. But Griselda’s lust for power and money made her blind. She started killing people to whom she owed huge amounts of debt, which even included Jiminez Panesso. Griselda owed $1.8 million to her, and therefore, she killed her to clear off the books. She even tortured the woman in an extremely brutal manner to find Rafa’s whereabouts, to whom she owed some money as well. So, Marta didn’t die accidentally, as shown in the series, but instead was murdered by Miami’s cocaine godmother.

Additionally, Rafa did want to take revenge on Griselda, but it wasn’t for any personal reasons. And no, he didn’t come to kill her in California, as the real-life Rafa had already left the country in 1979, some six years before Griselda’s arrest. Griselda had started a war with the Medellin Cartel by brutally murdering their key people, and it wasn’t Rafa who killed her sons. Rafa was long dead before Griselda came out of prison, which suggests that her sons were killed by the Medellin Cartel, who most likely took revenge for Marta Ochoa’s death.


How did Rafa die?

After Mermelstein’s arrest in 1985, Rafa, along with other drug traffickers in Miami, went into hiding to avoid arrest. However, in 1979, Rafa requested extradition and left the country. In the meantime, Rafa flipped his loyalty from the Medellin Cartel to the Cali Cartel because of personal reasons. The man was burning with envy and rage as he found out that the capo of the Medellin Cartel, Jorge Luis Ochoa, had started a romantic relationship with his wife, Odilia, which became the sole reason for such a betrayal. Rafa played a key role in Jorge’s arrest, which was a fatal blow to Escobar’s empire and to the entire Medellin Cartel.

On December 4, 1987, a hit squad force dressed as the Colombian national army arrived at Rafa’s antique car shop in Envigado, Medellin, where they disarmed his bodyguard before perforating Rafa with bullets to finish the man on the spot. At the time of his death, Rafa was only 35 years old. While many believe that it was the Medellin Cartel who planned Rafa’s execution, some theories even suggest the involvement of the Cali Cartel, who targeted important members of the rival gang to establish their own authority. Whatever the case might be, it was Rafa who got killed in the end.


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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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