Narcos is one of the most exciting series on Netflix, but how true-to-life is it? The real-life Jorge Salcedo recently spilled the beans on how accurate the series actually is.
With a series as nail-biting and hard-hitting as Narcos, it’s natural to wonder just how much the makers have stretched the truth. Is the script unflinchingly accurate, or are we talking about Stephen Hawking standing up at the end of The Theory Of Everything here?
Entertainment Weekly tracked down the real-life Jorge Salcedo – the security head of the Cali Cartel who was central in bringing down the empire and now lives under witness protection in the US – to get the facts behind the fictionalisation. “The story in general remains the same [as the truth],” he told them. “However, they present some happenings so that it was me that did them when that was not really the case. There are one or two incidents that I may have known about or was around when it happened, but it wasn’t always me who was executing all those things.”
So how accurate was Jorge’s story in Narcos? Let us, with spoilers aplenty, count the ways…
Salcedo getting forced into the cartel
The scene in which Salcedo – a high-end engineer with access to military grade surveillance equipment – is locked in a room with Miguel and co-opted into the cartel to head up security in the wake of an attempted bomb attack on Miguel by Pablo Escobar is, according to Salcedo, verbatim. “I had no option,” he says. “Nobody asked me, ‘would you have a problem with this?’ or ‘would you consider it?’ They just said, ‘this is the plan’. I had no option of saying no… everyone gets emotional now about these killings that ISIS is doing here, there, everywhere. But those guys look like boy scouts compared to Pablo. He had put a bomb in the building that destroyed the equivalent of the FBI in Colombia. I don’t even remember how many people he killed just that day. So I had sympathy [for the Cali Cartel’s goals] at that time. [Escobar] was bad, killing soldiers and civilians.”
The bad guy pulled apart with motorcycles
An early scene in season three had Pacho pulling Salazar apart by strapping him to two motorcycles. Not too far from the truth, Salcedo says. “Though it’s horrendous, it’s not far from the [actual] happenings. They did that the same. Not with Harleys, they used two Land Cruisers. I wasn’t there, but I had people who were actually in the execution of these things.”
The farmhouse execution
In Narcos, Salcedo is brought to a farmhouse for a meeting, only to find himself witness to an execution. True story? “I was taken there,” Salcedo confirms. “I was told we were going to meet Miguel [Rodriguez] at a farm whose code was ‘The Desert.’ He told me, ‘You get there first just to make sure the road is clear is safe for me.’ I get there, and the cars arrive there, and all of a sudden these people were just taken by force…
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all of a sudden the scene became violent. I started hearing screaming. I did not go near it. Was this a “’welcome to the club’ situation? Or was it a test… will you tell everyone what was done here? But whatever it was, I got the picture. They could do this to anybody. To me, to anybody.”
The plastic bag murder attempt
In the Netflix series, Miguel attempts to kill Salcedo with a plastic bag, having pegged him as an informant. Creative license, Salcedo attests. “Something very close happened to that,” he says. “Because at that point, they were suspecting about me. They were having a meeting, and they were excluding me of everything… I got a call from Miguel, and he said, you have to be get me out of this building,’ because all of a sudden it was surrounded by police. I was able to tell him what was happening [with the police], so I was able to earn his trust. The scene of suffocation… could have happened if I didn’t have that news. I most likely wouldn’t be alive.”
Salcedo killing Navegante
Come the end of the season, Salcedo kills hitman Navegante in self-defence. All-out fiction, according to Jorge. “I never killed him… I think the DEA guys did that… All I did that night was go to my most secure location to secure my most beloved possession on earth, which is my family. It doesn’t make sense that I’m going to go kill a killer. I’ve never killed anybody!”