80's Drug War

  • Medellin Cartel rises

    Medellin Cartel rises
    The Medellin cartel rises to power. The alliance includes the Ochoa family, Pablo Escobar, Carolos Lehder and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha. The drug kingpins work together to manufacture, transport and market cocaine. The United States and Colombia ratify a bilateral extradition treaty.
  • Pablo Escobar

    Pablo Escobar
    Pablo Escobar is elected to the Colombian congress; he gained support by building low-income housing, doling out money in Medellin slums and campaigning with Catholic priests. He's driven out of Congress the following year by Colombia's minister of justice.
  • Problems in Panama

    Problems in Panama
    Panamanian leader Gen. Manuel Noriega allows Pablo Escobar to ship cocaine through Panama. In the United States, Vice-President George H.W. Bush combines agents from multiple agencies and military branches to form the South Florida Drug Task Force, Miami being the main entry point at the time.
  • Nancy Reagan

    Nancy Reagan
    Nancy Reagan launches her "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign. In July, The Washington Times publishes a story about DEA informant Barry Seal's infiltration of the Medellin cartel's operations in Panama. The story shows that Nicaraguan Sandanistas are involved in the drug trade. As a result of Seal's evidence, a Miami federal grand jury indicts Carlos Lehder, Pablo Escobar, Jorge Ochoa and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha. (In February 1986, Seal is assassinated in Baton Rouge, La., by gunmen hired by
  • Colombia Extradites

    Colombia Extradites
    Colombia extradites drug traffickers to the United States for the first time. U.S. officials discover that the Medellin cartel has a "hit list" that includes embassy members, their families, U.S. businessmen and journalists
  • South-Florida Drug Task Force

    South-Florida Drug Task Force
    Because of the South Florida Drug Task Force's work, cocaine trafficking slowly changes transport routes. The Mexican border becomes the major point of entry for cocaine headed into the United States. Crack, a cheap, addictive and potent form of cocaine, is first developed in the early '80s; it becomes popular in the New York region, devastating inner-city neighborhoods.
  • Anti-Drug Abuse Act

    Reagan signs the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which appropriates $1.7 billion to fight the drug war. The bill also creates mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses, which are increasingly criticized for promoting significant racial disparities in the prison population because of the differences in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine. Possession of crack, which is cheaper, results in a harsher sentence; the majority of crack users are lower income.
  • Carlos Lehder

    Carlos Lehder
    In February, Carlos Lehder is captured by the Colombian National Police and extradited to the United States, where he's convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 135 years.
  • Colombia Gives In

    After receiving personal threats from drug traffickers, the justices on the Colombian Supreme Court rule by a vote of 13-12 to annul the extradition treaty with the United States.
  • Mexico Gets New President

    Carlos Salinas de Gortari is elected president of Mexico, and President-elect George H.W. Bush tells him he must demonstrate to the U.S. Congress that he is cooperating in the drug war. This process is called certification.

    President George H.W. Bush creates the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and appoints William Bennett as his first "drug czar." Bennett aims to make drug abuse socially unacceptable. That same year, Forbes magazine lists Pablo Escobar — known for his "bribes or bullets" approach to doing business — as the seventh-richest man in the world.
  • Invading Panama

    the United States invades Panama. Gen. Manuel Noriega surrenders to the DEA on Jan. 3, 1990, in Panama and is sent to Miami the next day. In 1992, Noriega is convicted on eight counts of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.