Narcos Season 3 on Netflix tells the story of the Cali Cartel godfathers, giving prominent screen time to Colombian drug lord Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela and his son, called David, who is portrayed as a hotheaded, not-that-bright sociopath.
Did Orejuela really have a son named David, and what happened to him? (Warning: Plot spoilers ahead.)
Those who’ve already made it to the end of Season 3 know that David is last seen bleeding out on a sidewalk after taking a bullet from a rival cartel (conveniently allowing the DEA to escape to the Cali airport with a carload of cartel turncoats.) He’s played in the series by Guatemalan actor, Arturo Castro, who called him “kind of a psychopath” and “a very hateable person.” While other characters, even in cartel world, retain a shred of humanity and likeability, that’s not true with David.
In real life, though, Orejuela’s son was named William, but William Rodriguez-Abadia didn’t die in a hail of bullets (although Narcos Season 3 leaves it a slightly open question as to whether David died), and you can’t attribute David’s actions to him, although he did play a role in the Cali Cartel’s business for a time. He has criticized Netflix for what he says are inaccuracies in how the son character is portrayed, saying, that he was his father’s lawyer and never an assassin.
The real William Rodriguez-Abadia lived to write a book called “I Am the Son of the Cali Cartel.”
“I decided to write because I got tired of other people writing my story. I appear in more than eight books, my dad is in over 15, and what they have done is to turn this into a myth,” he told Tampa Media Group in 2014.
According to Tampa Media Group, Rodriguez-Abadia, at least in 2014, was living in Broward County, Florida. He ended up cooperating with federal authorities in the U.S., and getting a reduced sentence, the news site reports. He was shot, in 1996, but that was a year after his father’s arrest, and the news site says he helped run the cartel for a time after the arrests but later had a change of heart about cartel activities.
The real Jorge Salcedo, the former Cali security chief who is featured prominently in Season 3, spoke to EW and declared the show largely accurate as a whole, while acknowledging that the show takes some dramatic license and that all of the scenes in it didn’t happen that way.
Asked whether tensions depicted in the series between him and David Rodriguez were true, Salcedo told EW, “Yes, well, William Rodriguez was his oldest son and his successor. He sometimes complained to me. I always got to appointments first, to check the security around and make sure there wasn’t an ambush or anything. But because I was always at the meeting, I was a witness to everything that was spoken there.”
Because the show admits that, although deriving from real life, it dramatizes some scenes, fictionalizing the Miguel son’s character with a new name was necessary because he’s still alive and not incarcerated or deceased like the other cartel characters featured. Thus, it would be a mistake to attribute the actions of the David character to those of Rodriguez’ real-life son.
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