The most recent season of Narcos: Mexico, which was released on November 5, 2021 on Netflix, dealt with the life and death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, one of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords. Fuentes was the head of the Juárez Cartel from 1993 to 1997, when he died after a failed surgical attempt at changing his appearance. This is his story.
Amado Carrillo Fuentes died on July 4, 1997 in Mexico City during a surgical procedure. Due to the increasing pressure demanding his arrest, he underwent plastic surgery and liposuction to change his appearance but died on the table, either from a specific medication or due to a malfunctioning respirator. He was given a large funeral.
In this article, we are going to tell you the story of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, “the Lord of the Skies”, his rise to power, his death, and its consequences. Fuentes’ story is a very interesting one and in line with Narcos: Mexico, we are going to explain how things went down in Mexico City in 1997.
Who Was Amado Carillo Fuentes?
Amado Carrillo Fuentes, better known as “El Señor de los Cielos” (“the Lord of the Skies”), because of the fleet of aircraft he had – among which there were several Boeing 727s that he used to transport drugs and have a fortune of millions of dollars – was a Mexican drug trafficker.
He became the leader of the Juárez Cartel after assassinating his boss Rafael Aguilar Guajardo. Partner of boss Pablo Escobar, Carrillo used his fleet of Boeing 727 aircraft to transport drugs and he became one of the most notorious drug lords in the history of Latin America.
Fuentes’ Rise to Infamy
Before the death of the famous Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, Amado Carrillo controlled the Juárez Cartel; the former produced its drugs, while the latter bought and distributed it, since Amado Carrillo was the operational leader for all of North America.
He was known as El Rey del Oro Blanco during his time, as he was the leader of the most powerful among the four cartels operating in Mexico: the Juárez, the Gulf, the Sinaloa, and the Tijuana cartels.
After the death of Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellín Cartel, the cartel of capo Amado Carrillo positioned itself as the main supplier of cocaine and even surpassed in greater power and totality in the “business” that Pablo Escobar achieved.
The Lord of the Skies, unlike Pablo Escobar, was discreet and learned that it was not good to appear on the news. During the time that the “business” dominated, very few journalists dared to write anything about it. According to the DEA, the Juarez Cartel made $200 million to $300 million a week, and 1% of that money was for bribes.
Two months before Amado Carrillo passed away, he had lost his main operator, General José de Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo; this military man had a reputation for being unwavering, tough, and forceful, and after leading many arrests of retail traffickers, he was appointed head of the fight against drugs in Mexico.
The United States supported the military, but a few months later it was discovered that he was in cahoots with Carrillo. Under Rebollo, who had long been protected from the DEA, and with the support of Carrillo, Mexico gradually replaced the Colombian cartels in the supply of cocaine to the United States.
Meanwhile, political and social corruption was deepening in all areas, even among the nationalist military sectors that were more reticent to alliances with the North Americans. The incredible geopolitical advantages obtained by the United States when the “narcogeneral” Rebollo scandal became known suggests that there was important participation of the DEA and the CIA in the whole process.
After the fall of Military Commander Rebollo, the US government pressured Mexico to detain Carrillo. The DEA offered a reward, but Amado Carrillo fled to Chile, where he entered under the false name of Jorge Torres.
The passport photo was real, but no one related it to the Fuentes thanks to the care with which the drug trafficker concealed his identity. From Chile, he traveled to Buenos Aires and then to Montevideo, where he created an entrance to export synthetic drugs imported from Europe and distribute them throughout the continent.
This traffic continues active to this day and is verifiable by the small seizures made by the Uruguayan police every so often. In Chile, he sought to invest following the advice of the lawyer Héctor Novoa Vázquez, who was, after that, subjected to a process for his ties to the Juárez cartel.
What Officially Happened to Amado Carillo Fuentes?
The pressure to capture Carrillo intensified between US and Mexican authorities after residents of Morelos state began protests against Governor Jorge Carrillo Olea and his alleged ties to drug-related violence.
Carrillo Fuentes owned a house three blocks from the governor’s official residence, and regularly hosted parties with various drug traffickers guests in the municipality of Tetecala. Governor Carrillo Olea was forced to resign and was later arrested.
This kind of pressure may have convinced Carrillo Fuentes, on July 4, 1997, to undergo extensive facial plastic surgery and abdominal liposuction to change his appearance, held at the Santa Mónica Hospital in Mexico City.
However, he died during the operation due to complications, apparently caused by certain medications or a malfunctioning respirator (there are only a few documents regarding the causes of his death). Two of Carrillo’s bodyguards were present in the operating room during the operation.
On November 7, 1997, the two doctors who performed the surgery on Carrillo were found dead, buried by cement in iron barrels; their bodies showed obvious signs of torture.
On the night of August 3, 1997, around 9:30 pm, four drug traffickers entered a restaurant in Ciudad Juárez, took out their weapons, and opened fire on five diners, killing the people inside instantly. Police estimated that more than 100 bullet shells were found at the crime scene.
According to a report published by the Los Angeles Times, four men entered the restaurant carrying at least two AK-47 automatic rifles, while others stopped at the door. On their way out, the gunmen killed another victim, Armando Olague, an off-duty prison officer, and law enforcement officer who was killed just outside the restaurant after he walked out of a nearby bar to investigate the shooting.
Olague had reportedly approached the restaurant across the street with a gun in his hand to control the hustle and bustle. It was later discovered that Olague was also a well-known lieutenant of the Juárez cartel.
Mexican authorities declined to comment on the motives for the murder, saying the shooting was not related to Carrillo’s death. Nonetheless, it was later claimed that the perpetrators were Tijuana cartel gunmen. Although clashes between drug traffickers were common in Ciudad Juárez, they rarely occurred in public places.
What happened in the restaurant threatened to usher in a new era of cartel violence. In Ciudad Juàrez, the PGR seized warehouses they believed the cartel used to store weapons and cocaine. They also seized more than 60 properties across Mexico belonging to Carrillo and started an investigation into his relationship with police and some government officials.
Officials also froze $10 billion worth of bank accounts belonging to Carrillo.
The Ciudad Juárez Cartel, the largest criminal organization in America, was later led by a council made up of two of Amado Carrillo’s brothers, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes “the Viceroy” and Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes “the Golden Boy.”
The compadre of El Señor de los Cielos, Ismael “el Mayo” Zambada, and Joaquín Guzmán Loera “el Chapo” agreed to call it “the Golden Triangle alliance.” For a long time, the business functioned in a stable way, until “Chapo” Guzmán, refused to pay the tax demanded by the Juárez Cartel for using the plaza to the drug trafficker to the United States.
In 2013, Alberto Carrillo Fuentes was arrested by the Federal Police in Bucerias, Nayarit. In 2014, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes was arrested in an operation by the Federal Police and the Army in Torreón, Coahuila. His son, Vicente Carrillo Leyva, alias “the Engineer,” was detained by the police on April 1, 2009, at his home in Las Lomas de Chapultepec in Mexico City.
Since then, he has been subject to six criminal proceedings but was ultimately acquitted of four of these cases. In the Federal Criminal Court of the West, in Jalisco, he finished serving the last sentence of seven years and six months in prison imposed on him for the crime of money laundering, obtaining his freedom again on June 12, 2018.
Is Amado Carillo Fuentes Still Alive?
Much has been speculated on whether Carrillo really died in the hospital where the events occurred. There have been talks about a supposed “plan”, where the death of the capo would be faked, thus giving him total freedom to mobilize. Although nothing has been proven, the mystery surrounding the story of the Lord of the Skies continues to be debated, leading to documentaries, books, series about Carillo’s life and death.
Now, if you ask us, Carillo Fuentes is probably dead. These things happen. People like conspiracy theories and they sound quite fun, but there is no concrete evidence to suggest that Fuentes had survived that night in Mexico City, so he’s by all means, almost certainly dead.
What Does the End of Narcos: Mexico Mean for Carillo Fuentes?
Now, if you’ve seen the end of Narcos: Mexico season three, you’ll know that the events shown in the final episode coincide with what happened in real life, the official version, at least. We have expressed our doubt towards any and all conspiracy theories surrounding Carillo faking his own debt, but the show leaves it pretty much open.
In the end, Narcos: Mexico suggests that there might be more behind Carillo’s apparent death than the official version wants us to think. Now, this is probably because the showrunners wanted to attract more viewers with a cliffhanger ending, but we don’t really think that we’ll be seeing more of Carillo Fuentes in later episodes of the show.