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fact or fiction? Questions remain over 'death' of Mexican Narco boss known as 'Lord of the Skies'

The death of the drug lord was dramatised in the finale of Narcos: Mexico


Amado Carrillo Fuentes - aka 'The Lord of the Skies'

Amado Carrillo Fuentes - aka 'The Lord of the Skies'

Amado Carrillo Fuentes - aka 'The Lord of the Skies'

A recently published interview with Narcos: Mexico actor José María Yazpik has reignited the fiery debate surrounding the death - or reputed lack thereof - of Yazpik’s on-screen character, Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

Fuentes was the real life Mexican cartel boss known as ‘Lord of the Skies’ because of his strong connections in the Mexican aerospace industry and military, who enabled his wholesale drug transportation operation as head of the feared Juarez cartel.

While Amado reportedly died on the operating table during a plastic surgery operation in July 1997, which apparently went wrong, (he wanted to change his appearance so he could remain on the run), and when he reportedly died, the doctors involved in the procedure were killed, in true Narcos fashion) it has long been suspected that the whole thing was a stunt, lavish funeral included, in a bold attempt from Amado to fake his own death.

Of course, to most people, this would seem like an almost unfeasible, downright ludicrous suggestion to make, had the claim been made anywhere else in the world.

But in the 1990s Mexican and South American drug trade, a world of questionably-built submarines, limitless money and pet hippos, the Narcos were capable of almost anything, and to those who worked within the trade, as in the case of Amado, as he proved with his industrial smuggling operation, the sky was certainly not the limit.

In the finale of the show, the DEA are seen discussing the fate of the surgeons, with a scene depicting Amado’s girlfriend at a house in Chile with a toy plane Amado famously carried with him.

The scene was a nod to the conspiracy theory that Amado didn’t die under the knife on a plastic surgery operating table that has been long accepted - albeit reluctantly.

Now Yazpik, who studied the cartel boss in detail for his role in the show, has flat-out dismissed the notion of Amado’s vain demise.


Yazpik (L) stars as Amado Carrillo Fuentes in Narcos: Mexico

Yazpik (L) stars as Amado Carrillo Fuentes in Narcos: Mexico

Yazpik (L) stars as Amado Carrillo Fuentes in Narcos: Mexico

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, the actor poured fuel on the flames of the controversy, saying, “Officially, Amado was dead. I don’t believe he died. I believe that he got away with it”.

Indeed, Amado’s list of associates reads like a who’s who that would make Al Capone blush.

His uncle was Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, aka ‘Don Neto’, the former leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, who ran the crime organisation alongside ‘The Boss of Bosses’ Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, the drug lord responsible for the murder of heroic DEA agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camaren who was brutally tortured and killed as he came close to blowing Félix’s operation wide open in the mid-80s, as dramatised earlier in the series.

Amado also worked in cahoots with perhaps the most infamous of all drug dealers, Pablo Escobar, the narcoterrorist who, as former DEA agent Javier Pena, who took down Escobar with his colleague Steve Murphy, told the Sunday World in an interview in 2018, was “responsible for 80 per cent of the cocaine in world”.

He added: “[Back then] a kilo was worth anywhere from $60-$80,000 in the US and over $200,000 in Europe. There were literally tonnes of cash coming back to Pablo Escobar in Colombia.”

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Mission: Steve Murphy and Javier Pena led the hunt for drug baron Pablo Escobar before his death in 1993. Photo: Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

Mission: Steve Murphy and Javier Pena led the hunt for drug baron Pablo Escobar before his death in 1993. Photo: Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

Mission: Steve Murphy and Javier Pena led the hunt for drug baron Pablo Escobar before his death in 1993. Photo: Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

No triumvirate of dodgy contacts would be complete without having worked with the ruthless gangster Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, aka ‘El Chapo’, who is currently locked up in Florence, Colorado, in the USA, one of the world’s most airtight ‘supermax’ prisons, where the drug kingpin was incarcerated after two high profile prison escapes in 2001 and 2005.

While the likes of Escobar tried to ingratiate himself with ‘his people’ by buying schools and even, at one stage, making an ill-fated attempt to move into Colombian politics, which was, at that time, just about as grubby as Escobar’s tax return records, Amado never tried so hard to pull the wool over his fellow countrymen’s eyes, that is, unless, he saved his best trick for last.

In the lead up to the death of Amado, marches began in his home state of Morelos in protest against politician Jorge Carrillo Olea due to his alleged laissez-faire attitude towards drug dealing and corruption.

A neighbour of Olea, Amado was apparently very unnerved when Olea was arrested and resigned, and this was presumed to be the reason he opted to have facial reconstruction surgery and liposuction in 1997 - to quite literally ‘put on a new face’ and start a new life.

The story goes that there were complications in terms of a drug administered to Amado, or some kind of a problem to do with a respirator, which some may regard as spurious notions in the least given there are barely any records of the surgery having taken place at all - not to mention the demise of the surgeons.

The DEA themselves have appeared to disregard the rumours of a staged death, with an official statement reading: “The rumor has as much credibility as the millions of sightings of the late Elvis Presley.”

Speaking of the authorities’ approach to the Amado situation on both sides of the border, Yazpik, a Tijuana native who was well aware of Amado while growing up, and even shared the same group of friends as one of Amads’s kids, said: “I got to speak to them and hear a whole bunch of stories. I don’t know if they were true or not, but they knew I was doing the research so I hope they weren’t embellishing everything.

"Then I also met with several people who used to work in the army and special forces here in Mexico, a couple of them that went to the hospital that night that Amado got his reconstructive surgery. So, I got a lot of first-hand very amazing information.”

Amado’s funeral, post operation, if it was indeed Amado lying in open state, was described as a spectacle in itself, with Amado’s bright white teeth on show sandwiched between strained lips forced ajar for every mourner to consider.


The alleged bruised corpse of Amado Carrillo Fuentes in his open-casket funeral

The alleged bruised corpse of Amado Carrillo Fuentes in his open-casket funeral

The alleged bruised corpse of Amado Carrillo Fuentes in his open-casket funeral

The body inside, the Trumpian suit the only reminder that the corpse wrapped within was once one of the living, such was the indistinguishable form it encased, was a bruised and entwisted morbid pageant which, in any other civilised society, would have warranted at least a perfunctory discussion as to whether or not the casket should have been closed.

While the Mexican Attorney General offered the media a rare glimpse at the man who would have quite easily had any number of them murdered while alive, the insistence of the office to do so bred an uncomfortable uneasiness in a press set to whom nothing, when it came to the Narcos, seemed impossible; and everything seemed suspicious.

One of the many doubts surrounding Amado’s funeral picture surrounded his hands, which were twisted in an inhuman manner around each other, and seemingly much too large for his body.

Since the funeral, all sorts of rumours and reported sightings of Amado have emerged.

One such rumour is that he moved to Germany after the surgery.

Another, as referred to in the finale of Narcos: Mexico, is that he met his partner in Chile.

One rumour even placed him in Russia.

But the question which must haunt the US authorities as much as the Mexicans must be: How do you either deny or confirm a sighting of a man who was last seen alive under the knife of plastic surgeons, whose body at his funeral in the open casket resembled something the another hit TV show, The Walking Dead?

One retired DEA agent, Ralph Villaruel, who was based in Guadalajara at the same time Amado was operating in the area, said he had received information saying Amado was either in Russia or Chile.

He added: "We heard that he wanted [to pay the government] to be left alone - that he didn't want nothing to do with drug trafficking no more."

When the fingerprints of Amado, following his death, were compared against records the trafficker had given in Presidio, Texas, back in 1985, one DEA agent who had overseen the matter, speaking of the fingerprints, said: "I didn't say that it was Amado. What I said was that the fingerprints that were taken from a young man who resembles the Amado that we all know, and was fingerprinted as an illegal alien 20 years ago, is the same person as this corpse.

"Whether it's Amado or not, that's a different matter, but it would have had to [have] been some type of conspiracy over 20 years that some guy was gonna die and they were gonna substitute the body of the guy who was in Presidio, Texas, 20 years ago."

While the Mexican authorities maintain the man who died while receiving plastic surgery in the summer of 1997 was definitely Amado, the rumour mill in Mexico has nonetheless raised questions over the entire affair. In a murky world where even the most ludicrous of stories turned out to be true, the faking of a botched operation doesn’t seem too far beyond the realms of possibility.

The last person who had access to the body of Amado was his mother, who may hold the key as to whether or not the man inside the casket was, in fact, her son.

But then, in stereotypical doting Mexican mother fashion, if Amado had gone on to live a life as a dead man, with a new identity and free from the scrutiny of the DEA and the media, why would she say the man she laid to rest was anyone other than her son?

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