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Wildlands Length: 95mins
Published: 1 Nov, 2017
Rusty Young, author of the best-selling novel Marching Powder, returns to Bolivia, the country that provided the setting for his remarkable true story, to uncover the brutal realities of the international cocaine trade. ​His investigation sees him cross paths with some of the most notorious assassins and traffickers in history, as well as the undercover agents and informants working against them. What emerges is a world driven by addiction, to the drug, to the game, to the chase. Wildlands is an enthralling and shocking expose that lays bare the inner workings of the war on drugs.

As he stands on a hill overlooking the city, Popeye says proudly to Rusty: “Look Kangaroo! I want to introduce you to Medellin. This is the city of crime kings, Pablo Escobar and Popeye. This city that you see here is the only city in the world where a criminal organisation has fought a government and killed 540 policemen. The is the ‘City of War’.” Popeye was Pablo Escobar’s assassin of choice, who has claimed responsibility for over 3,000 killings. He shows no remorse.

Rusty’s journey begins where it did all those years ago, at San Pedro Prison in Bolivia’s capital La Paz. It was here that he met drug smuggler Thomas McFadden: the two men would change each other’s lives forever. In return for McFadden’s story, Rusty secured his release. Greeting each other as old friends, the two men tour McFadden’s former home, discussing what brought them there in the first place; cocaine. Since that first trip to Bolivia, Rusty has been fascinated and appalled by the devastating consequences of this innocuous white powder.

The allure of unimaginable wealth, lavish parties and beautiful women is what sucked George Jung into trafficking. Made famous by Johnny Depp’s portrayal of him in Blow, Jung was part of the infamous Medellin Cartel, led by Pablo Escobar. Making $200,000 a month, Jung was living the dream. “You think you’re a real slick son of a bitch, the ultimate playboy in the universe”. But for Jung it became about more than the money. “The money was just a tool. You loved the game. The game was your opiate. You were addicted to fear”, he tells Rusty. Eventually Jung’s addiction would lead him to jail, entrapped by the DEA.

Jung’s captors, the DEA, have been fighting the cartels since the ‘70s. They have learnt from their enemies, using assassinations, coercion, bribery and espionage in their quest to bring the gangsters to justice. A key force in bringing down Escobar and the Medellin Cartel, DEA Agent Mike Vigil saw it all. But despite his experiences of horrific violence and death, Vigil says he would do it all again, “for 1000 lifetimes… it’s intoxicating, it’s like a drug”.


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