Guillermo González Calderoni is the real-life name of the tough-guy Mexican law enforcer who, to put it mildly, means business in Narcos: Mexico, the Netflix series that features the emergence and then downfall of the Guadalajara drug cartel. (Warning: This article will contain plot spoilers.)
Calderoni is painted, at least initially, as the good cop in a sea of corruption so extensive that it’s hard to tell where the government ends and the cartel begins. He’s not afraid to knock heads, and he’s not intimidated by the cartel leaders – at least until the end when, in a surprise ending, he reveals that he is also corruptible. He’s got cartel co-founder Felix Gallardo pinned down with no way to escape until Felix reveals he has tapes with names of top government officials involved with the drug cartel, and he offers Calderoni a lot of money besides. Calderoni pauses, and season 1 ends with Gallardo free and back in charge with the remnants of the cartel under his control.
Was Calderoni real? Yes, he’s based on a real-life person. However, as with many of the characters in Narcos: Mexico, the series takes some liberties with the true facts, fictionalizing scenes while still drawing elements from real characters. In Narcos: Mexico, Calderoni is played by Julio César Cedillo, a Mexican actor. However, the basic character sketch holds true to the real man.
Here’s what you need to know:
In Real Life, Calderoni Worked Both Sides of the Fence
In an extensive profile on Calderoni, GQ describes the real man as a “Mexican cop, a killer, a narc, a drug boss, a billionaire.” You can see a photo of the real Calderoni with that article here. In the photo above, he is on the left with Mexican President Carlos Salinas.
The real Calderoni was a complicated character; he has his defenders among American law enforcement, but he profited through deals with drug lords and killed for them.
GQ colorfully describes Calderoni as “a peacock of a man, dressed nattily in fine fabrics and handmade boots, quick eyed and fluent in English, Spanish and French.” The article says Calderoni was “a federale on the border. Soon he was a comandante. He took a million-dollar contract from one drug lord to kill another. (The FBI unknowingly helped him with this murder.) He hobnobbed with DEA agents, helped them out when he needed to…” He made a fortune and was close to the president of Mexico, Salinas, before accusing Salinas of corruption. Calderoni was, the article says, corrupt, but he was also the guy called in, at times, to get things done for the Americans as well as the Mexican government.
According to Frontline, which published an extensive interview with him, Calderoni “was one of the highest ranking commanders in the Mexican Federal Police and was its top narcotics officer during the Carlos Salinas administration. He orchestrated the arrest of drug lord Felix Gallardo.”
However, he later pointed the finger at the Salinas administration, saying it was corrupt, and he ended up in the United States to escape an arrest warrant in Mexico. He once described spearheading the 1989 arrest of Felix Gallardo (Gallardo was on the run for five years after the death of DEA agent Kiki Camarena in real life). “After many problems, we rented an apartment across the street from his house, and one day in which they brought in an icebox with shrimp and [other food], when his guards came out. I had the operation all planned. Fourteen of us went in. We apprehended him alive inside of his house,” Calderoni told Frontline.
A 1997 Texas Monthly article dubbed Calderoni “The Comandante.” The article says that Calderoni was a “legendary figure” who “hunted down the original members of the Mexican Federation,” an “alliance” of drug rings. He was described as “part Eliot Ness and part Gordon Liddy, he was also part Aldrich Ames.” The article accuses Calderoni of “vigorously pursuing some of Mexico’s drug lords” but “protecting others.” For example, Texas Monthly says the DEA believes that Calderoni was paid $1 million by drug lord Amado Carillo Fuentes to murder his rival drug lord Pablo Acosta Villareal. He eventually moved to McAllen, Texas.
An article in La Jornada describes Calderoni as “a protector of drug traffickers such as Amado Carrillo Fuentes (Juarez cartel) and Juan García Abrego (Gulf cartel).”
However, the New York Times reports that some American agents who knew Calderoni claim he turned down a $5 million offer to let Felix Gallardo go. Agents also told The Times that Calderoni was helpful in investigating the Kiki Camarena death.
The New York Times reported that Cameroni had crossed so many lines that “no one knew which side he was on,” although the Americans said he was useful and loyal to them.
He was shot and killed in Texas by an assassin in 2003 at age 54. He was leaving his lawyer’s office at the time.