SHOTS ring out throughout the barren countryside as a feminine cartel chief is bundled right into a bulletproof automobile and whisked away by bodyguards.
The terrifying raid from a rival gang, at a distant ranch in Colombia, is simply one other day within the workplace for investigative journalist Marianna Van Zeller – who comes nose to nose with so-called ‘cocaine queens‘ in her new collection Trafficked.
In a surprising interview Sonja – a commander within the feared Los Caparros cartel at simply 21 – tells Marianna she was drafted into the drug gang by her boyfriend at 16, and compelled to chop off a disabled man’s head with a machete in a brutal initiation ceremony.
She additionally admits to kidnapping a coachload of teenage soccer gamers, killing one and forcing others to grow to be narco-soldiers, and murdering a farmer earlier than displaying his physique for 10 days as a warning to others.
The surprising episode, exposing the rise of lethal narco queens, is one in every of ten investigations within the collection, which airs on the Nationwide Geographic channel from Sunday.
Elsewhere, Marianna visits a makeshift meth lab within the Mexican jungle, meets members of the mafia within the Amazon and “chilling” far-Proper supremacists, in addition to investigating rogue plastic surgeons.
However the Portuguese-born filmmaker, 45, claims her calm exterior isn’t any act.
“I simply see individuals as human beings and I feel that goes a good distance in direction of me not being afraid of them,” she tells The Solar.
“If you happen to present individuals that you simply belief them, and that you simply’re treating them with respect, they’ll deal with you with respect and belief again.”
Gangster romance sucked teenager into underworld
When Sonja was rising up within the Bajo Cauca area of Colombia, she dreamed of being a physician as a result of “I’m form to those that method”.
As an alternative, the homicide of her father by a paramilitary gang when she was simply 12, in addition to a teenage romance with a gangster, turned her right into a vicious killer.
At 16, she fell for the regional commander of Los Caparros – one of many nation’s strongest legal teams – attracted by his immense energy.
“The best way that everybody was afraid of him attracted me,” she says. “Individuals virtually used their tongues to scrub his boots.”
Sonja ran away from house and was quickly pregnant, admitting she “broke my mum’s coronary heart however I’m revered now”.
In addition to having a number of youngsters by her lover, she started to become involved within the drug enterprise, however was made to show her loyalty in essentially the most horrific method – after gang members kidnapped a disabled man and ordered her to execute him.
“He begged me to not kill him,” she says. “I didn’t need to do it however my boyfriend mentioned if I didn’t kill him I wouldn’t be accepted into the group.
“To point out him I used to be worthy, he gave me a machete and informed me to chop his throat. I didn’t need to do it, however he insisted. We lower off his head and threw it within the river.”
Strung up sufferer’s physique for 10 days as ‘warning’
Rising by way of the ranks, Sonja started overseeing 30,000 acres of fields the place farmers develop coca – the primary ingredient of cocaine – and pickers are watched over by machine gun-toting bodyguards.
The area was as soon as the area of legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar and is among the many most violent on this planet, with over 2,000 murders in 2019.
Violent crackdowns by the Colombian army have resulted in mass deaths and the warfare between the Los Caparros and bitter rivals the Clan de Golfo – who have been behind the shootout whereas Marianna was on the ranch – claims many extra lives.
In 2019, in a bid to thwart the drug commerce, the federal government paid farmers to destroy coca crops. One unlucky man, who obeyed the ruling, was murdered by Sonja, who put his physique on show for 10 days to discourage others from following go well with.
She additionally admits being behind the kidnap of a coachload of kids, on their solution to play a neighborhood soccer match.
Their moms pleaded for his or her launch and three have been freed. One other was discovered useless.
Sonja tells Marianna she ordered the kidnapping as a part of a “recruitment” drive, the place younger boys are kidnapped and compelled to grow to be narco-soldiers.
Requested if the remaining teenagers have been alive, Sonja answered: “If they are saying sure, we ship them to the troop. If they are saying no, we kill them.”
When shocked Marianna tells her it is “horrible” to take the harmless boys from their household, Sonja replies that you simply “get used to what you do day by day”, including that the violence is important to take care of dominance within the drug commerce.
However she admits she feels responsible concerning the lives she’s taken, explaining: “Typically I’ve nightmares about individuals who begged for his or her lives.“
Shortly after Marianna’s interview the chief of Los Caparros was shot useless by the army and his lieutenant, Sonja’s lover, was arrested. The kidnapped footballers have been freed and reunited with their households.
Regardless of her brutal rule, Marianna sees Sonja and plenty of of her fellow ‘troopers’ as victims themselves.
“My coronary heart instantly goes out to the victims and to the individuals and in a case like Sonia, it’s so clear to me that she is a sufferer of the drug warfare herself.
“She crossed a line and went from being a sufferer to being a perpetrator however you may’t perceive the perpetrator half with out understanding the sufferer half.
“You’ll be able to chase her, you may imprison her, you may kill her – however on the finish of the day, there’s an increasing number of individuals that may do what Sonja is doing now, due to poverty and a scarcity of alternative.”
With the authorities concentrating on taking out male cartel leaders, their feminine counterparts are more and more taking management, with one drug vendor telling Marianna: “It is going to take some time however ladies will ultimately rule drug trafficking.”
“The pandemic has so much to do with it,” the journalist explains. “I used to be listening to about an increasing number of ladies, single moms, who misplaced their jobs and had to determine a solution to convey again meals for his or her households quick, so that they be part of the drug enterprise, or some other black market.”
‘White supremacists terrified me greater than cartel assassins’
Within the first episode of Trafficked, Marianna explores the crystal meth growth within the US, assembly drug sellers and customers, and visiting an enormous meth lab within the jungle, the place masked males with machine weapons confirmed her how they made tons of the drug to ship throughout the border.
“I used to be the primary girl to ever set foot in that lab they usually have been very pleased with what that they had constructed, and of the product they have been placing on the market,” she says.
“But it surely was actually harmful as a result of it is so rudimentary, and there’s loads of chemical substances so if there’s a malfunction within the gear, they will explode.
“They have been telling us that they had been in labs the place there had been explosions and associates and colleagues died, so we have been making an attempt to get what we would have liked and get out as quick as potential.”
Regardless of her dealings with drug lords, sellers and criminals, Marianna says essentially the most chilling episode, for her, is the white supremacy report – which noticed her infiltrate far-Proper extremist teams within the US.
“The white supremacy investigation was the one which retains me awake at evening and makes me fear concerning the world,” she says
“Sitting throughout from American Nazis, who’re overtly inciting violence and calling for a race warfare, was truly essentially the most chilling and scariest of all of them.
“When we have now white supremacist assaults, like those in New Zealand and Norway, we have a tendency to think about them as lone wolf assaults.
“That could not be farther from the reality. These individuals are linked to a wider community of white supremacists the place they’re being impressed and getting army coaching from each other.
“It is a world community, however as a substitute of placing medication in individuals’s our bodies or or weapons of their arms, they’re placing hateful ideology in individuals’s minds.”
Trafficked airs on Nationwide Geographic for ten weeks, from Sunday 13, at 9pm.
https://www.thesun.ie/information/8357929/cocaine-queen-colombia-cartel/ I confronted ‘cocaine queen’ who beheaded a person for cartel ‘initiation’ and slaughtered teenage footballer in chilly blood