A Brit who spent 15 years with Colombia’s deadliest drug cartels has described a world of blood, cocaine and a bizarre mix of black magic and ‘holy’ hitmen.
He also described the time a narco gunman threatened to kill him while he was covering the country’s bloody drug wars.
Investigative journalist Toby Muse has won the trust of key cartel members, giving him unprecedented access to the bloodthirsty gangs that run Colombia’s cocaine trade with military efficiency and brutal violence.
Toby, whose book Kilo: Inside the Deadliest Cocaine Cartels was published in 2020, told The Sun Online how he connected with men and women at all levels of drug gangs, from the lowest cultivators of coke to the cocaine barons, and cold-blooded assassins carrying out their blows.
In doing so, he also got a glimpse of the cocaine “tsunami” flooding the world, from the jungles of Colombia to the streets of London.
And he described how the killers have a strange mix of spirituality and dark magic, often using wizards to summon ‘demons’ to help them fight their rivals – and with hitmen sometimes believing they’re getting the job done. of God.
Describing his most terrifying experiences, he recalled the time he was in a remote area of Colombia near the Venezuelan border with a group of narco militia gunmen.
“We were the Catatumbo River on Friday night,” he said. “It’s one of the places where they grow coca. The whole local economy revolves around that.
“Everyone had opened beers and were on their fifth or sixth. We were sitting in the dirt outside someone’s house around a fire, the music was deafening.
“Suddenly one of the militia gunmen, who was drunk, shouted, ‘Fuck you, I’m going to kill that gringo son of a b****.’
“He wasn’t looking at me but was shouting loud enough that he knew I could hear him.
“I think he was saying they wouldn’t necessarily kill me now, but they might kill me tonight.”
At the time, the group was in such a remote and inaccessible part of the country that if they had decided to kill Toby, it is unlikely he would ever have been found.
The nearest town of Tibu, home to only 30,000 people, was only about 30 km away, but to reach it would have taken about six hours, including walking, hitching a lift on the back of a motorcycle, crossing a river in a truck, and then taking a taxi along the last stretch of highway.
To this day, Toby says he doesn’t know why they didn’t kill him.
“It would have been difficult for them to justify my death,” he said. “I was there with a community organizer who had invited me, they wanted me to see the reality of the situation facing coca growers in Colombia.”
Like standing in a casino where everyone makes money and sex is offered to everyone, but at any moment someone could step in and put a bullet in your head.
He added that tourists will never see this world and that if he hadn’t had people who could vouch for him, he probably would have been turned away or kidnapped before he even reached the coca farms.
On another occasion, the cartel he covered hosted a welcome party for a group of foreigners who came to Colombia as part of a major cocaine smuggling operation.
They told Toby the foreigners’ nationality and the next day, coincidentally, the group was arrested and featured on the TV news.
“When you’re with these people as a journalist, you don’t want to hear about future projects,” he said.
“If something goes wrong, they will consider you a snitch.”
In the days following the arrest, Toby said he tried to avoid cartel members as much as possible until he was contacted late that night by a longtime mob friend. , who said he needed to see him.
“I thought he was coming to kill me,” he admitted. Instead, he helped her escape.
BLACK MAGIC KILLERS
One of the most bizarre characteristics of the Colombian drug cartels was their obsession with spirit religion, including black magic.
The Clan del Golfo, by far the largest and most powerful cocaine syndicate in the country, regularly hired witches and wizards to cast spells at the cartel.
A particularly dark spell would “haunt” rival cartel members or law enforcement agents leading them to commit suicide.
“It would be like having a demon on your back telling you to ‘kill yourself, kill yourself’ all day long,” he said.
Another spell described to Toby was a so-called “invisibility” incantation.
“The witch would take dust from the bone of a cat that had been killed in a specific way,” he said.
“This dust would be deposited with the shipment of drugs and the port inspectors would not notice it.
Not surprisingly, in a world where death can strike at any time, religion plays a major role in the lives of many narcos.
For his book, Toby interviewed a man named Alex, a cartel hitman who prayed to the Virgin Mary before every murder contract.
He would go to the famous Medellin sanctuary that Pablo Escobar’s men would visit before a mission.
She is called the Virgin of the Mystical Rose, but she has a darker nickname – the Virgin of the Assassins.
Toby asked Alex how he balances his faith with his job as a hitman.
“He said to me, ‘If God really doesn’t want me to kill someone, he will arrest me. So when I kill someone, God wanted them to be punished because he didn’t protect them. If I fail, then he didn’t. want them to be punished.'”
Describing what it was like to be in the world of drug cartels, Toby said: “It’s like standing in a casino where everyone makes money and sex is offered to everyone. , but at any moment, someone could step in and put a bullet in your brain.”
He added, “You can’t separate sex from the cocaine trade. When young men in Colombia want to get into it, yes they think of money, but also of models and actresses.
“For slum youth run by drug gangs, the cartels are their Hollywood.”
In the 1980s, Colombia’s most prominent newsreader, Virginia Vallejo, had an affair with Pablo Escobar, subsequently writing the book Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar about their relationship.
It was made into a movie in 2018.
Many top Colombian models have had very public relationships with narcos.
Looking back on his time in Colombia’s drug gangs, Toby described what he called “a constant feeling of dread, like an anchor around your neck.”
He added: “Death is always near. There is a very dark atmosphere, with violence never more than a click away.”