José Santacruz Londoño (1 October 1943 – 5 March 1996), also known as Chepe or Don Chepe, was a Colombian drug lord. Along with Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela and Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, Santacruz Londoño was a leader of the Cali Cartel. The trio was profiled in a TIME cover story in July 1991.
Santacruz Londoño and the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers formed the Cali cartel in the 1970s. They were primarily involved in marijuana trafficking. In the 1980s, they branched out into cocaine trafficking. For a time the Cali Cartel supplied 70% of the United States and 90% of the European cocaine market.
The Cali Cartel was less violent than its rival, the Medellín Cartel. While the Medellín Cartel was involved in a brutal campaign of violence against the Colombian government the Cali Cartel grew. The Cali cartel was much more inclined toward bribery than violence.
After the demise of the Medellín Cartel the Colombian authorities turned their attention to the Cali Cartel. The campaign began in the summer of 1995.
Several Cali Cartel leaders were arrested during the summer of 1995: Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela was arrested on June 9, Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela on August 6, and Santacruz Londoño on July 4. However, Santacruz Londoño escaped, on January 11, 1996, from La Picota Prison in Bogotá. His motives for escaping were attributed to a number of reasons: he was in charge of consolidating the network of hitmen and armed men of the cartel, for which he established an alliance with old members of the Medellín Cartel; he was to exert more control over some of the smuggling networks, which had begun acting more independently after the cartel's leaders were incarcerated; and he coordinated the assassination of about 27 potential witnesses against him and some of the other capos of the cartel, and apparently was arranging for the assassination of important figures of the government.
According to the official version of Santacruz Londoño's death, police had tracked him down to Medellín, and they received an anonymous phone call on March 5, 1996 informing them of Santacruz Londoño's presence in a shopping mall. He was followed after he left the mall and killed while attempting to flee, after the police stopped his car.
A second version of his death became known after Javier Antonio Calle Serna, a drug-trafficker and leader of the Los Rastrojos organization who is in prison in the United States, published his memoir, in which Calle Serna argued that Santacruz Londoño's death was orchestrated by paramilitary groups at the instigation of Danilo González, a colonel from Colombia's police who had originally fought against Pablo Escobar and then became an associate of the cartel members'.