Courage at Twilight: Columbian Drug Cartels

“That reminds me of something,” Dad chuckled.  For many years, Johnson & Johnson’s companies in Central and South America were Dad’s responsibility.  He had to know each country’s peculiar manufacturing, corporate, and import/export laws, and advise company officials on staying within those laws.  J&J subsidiaries in the various countries manufactured many products, which were shipped between countries in locked and sealed steel shipping containers.  On one occasion, a J&J subsidiary in Mexico received a shipment from a J&J subsidiary in Columbia.  Shipments from Columbia were subject to strict procedures, which included inspections of the shipping containers, and container locks and seals.  If a container arrived with a broken seal, company representatives were to summon police authorities prior to unlocking and opening the container.  Upon breaking the seal on one shipping container from Columbia, unlocking the lock, and opening the container, J&J personnel found a large shipment of cocaine, along with the legitimately imported hospital and pharmaceutical supplies.  The subsidiary general manager called Dad with a frantic, “What do I do?”  Dad first instructed him that the drug cartels had bigger and more guns than J&J security, to leave the container unlocked, without guard, and to move all company personnel as far from the container as possible in case cartel agents came to collect their property.  Dad then instructed him to call federal law enforcement, state law enforcement, and local law enforcement, to inform them of the situation, and to arrange for all three police agencies to arrive at the same time to investigate.  The general manager did exactly so, and the police agencies arrived simultaneously, removing the cocaine without incident.  Dad learned later that the cartels had developed a mechanism and method to lift and remove shipping container doors as a unit without breaking the door seals, adding to or removing drugs from the shipments, and replacing the container doors, leaving the seals intact and with no indication of the containers having been disturbed.  Something had apparently gone awry with this particular shipment.  Dad’s protocol kept company personnel safe, protected Johnson & Johnson’s legal standing, deprived the cartel of its drugs, and minimized the potential for corruption by involving three competing police agencies.

(Photo by Guillaume Bolduc on Unsplash.)

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