Cocaine in Miami

The Rise of Cocaine in Florida

In the mid 1970s, marijuana was the biggest product sold in the drug industry within Miami. Cocaine was around, however in very small amounts due to its extremely high price. At that time, cocaine was not considered the main focus for the DEA. Due to massive importation of marijuana, it soon became unprofitable to narcotic traiffckers. They began to lose money by relying on marijuana. By the 1980s, cocaine was hastily gaining popularity and was on its climb to becoming the major drug industry in South Florida. Slowly, as the presence of cocaine increased within the United States, the price lowered enough so it could become afforable to blue-collared Americans.


By 1980, More than 70% of all cocaine imported in the USA passed through South Florida.

Important Figures

Pablo Escobar

Medellín, Colombia

Columbian drug lord and leader of the Medellín cartel. For a period of time, the Medellín cartel produced 80% of the cocaine imported into the United States.

Griselda Blanco

Miami, Florida, USA

Known as "La Madrina, the Black Widow, the Cocaine Godmother and the Queen of Narco-Trafficking."

She was a Colombian drug lord of the Medellín Cartel based in the Miami cocaine trade during the 1970s and early 1980s. It is believed that she was responsible for more than 200 murders during her time trafficking cocaine.


Max Mermelstein

Miami, Florida, USA

Former drug smuggler for the Medellín cartel, he eventually became an important government informant against the cocaine trade.

Jon Roberts

Miami, Florida, USA

A drug trafficker based in Miami for the Medellín cartel during the growth of the cocaine epidemic between 1975-1985. Once he was arrested, he became a government informant in order to prevent a long prison sentence.

Mickey Munday

Miami, Florida, United States

Former drug trafficker and pilot for the Medellín cartel. He isknown as the last surviving "Cocaine Cowboy"

Jorge "Rivi" Ayala

Miami, Florida, USA

A known hitman for Griselda Blanco. He is responsible for 29 murders during the cocaine era in Miami, which he is still serving in prison for. He is also suspected to be responsible for 12 other murders.

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The Cartels

The two major cartels in Miami were the Medellín and the Cali cartels. Both centered in Colombia, they were the biggest producers of cocaine thwat was imported into the United States.


Nationality's Role in Cartels


As the profit from cocaine increased during the 1970s and 1980s, competing gangs and cartels aggressively attempted to control the trade; alliances and enemies made between these rival groups brought much destruction to Miami.


During a period following the Mariell Boatlift, a period of ethnic tensions rose in Miami. Miami had transformed from an area comprised of a 10% white Hispanic population in the 1960s, to that of a 90% white Hispanic in the beginning of the 1980s. These increased tensions between ethnicity followed itself into the cocaine trade, and became the main distinction between cartels. Nationality was the greatest dividing factor between cartels. A shared nationality allowed for greater cohesion and a stronger bond between members of the groups, but it also allowed for a bitter hatred towards those who did not share this. Not only did the trade become a matter of money, but it transformed into a matter of nationality as well. The three distinct groups based on nationality consisted of “The Anglos, the Cubans, and the Colombians.”


The Anglos were mainly composed of English speaking Americans. Though they mainly worked under the marijuana trade, some tried to deal cocaine once they noticed the big amount of money others made off of it. Their average pay for one night’s work of piloting cargo averaged 50,000$, and the pay for unloading the cargo was between 5,000$ and 10,000$ a night.


The Cubans were compromised mostly of the 125,000 refugees who immigrated to South Florida. Highly unemployed and taxed on social services, these people were especially vulnerable to joining the cocaine trade. The most well known member Is Jose Medrano Alvero Cruz (El Padrino), who generated millions off the trade, but his fear of capture lead him to more precautious measures.


The Colombians were by far the largest and most powerful cartel in the Miami area. Officials estimated between 50 and 150 top Colombian traffickers lived worked in South Florida, with another 200 or so mid-level managers helping them run their operations. Colombians especially tended work with family members





Miami Herald: The Cartels, 1987



Cocaine Cowboys. Directed by Billy Corben. Performed by Jon Roberts, Mickey Munday. Miami: Rakontur, 2006. DVD.


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