Tranquilandia: The Disneyland of Cocaine Production

“All your dreams are made / when you’re chained to the mirror and a razor blade.” —Oasis, “Morning Glory”

In A Nutshell

Sometime within the 1970s, the Medellin Cartel constructed “Tranquilandia,” a massive cocaine production facility hidden deep within the jungles of Colombia. The expansive complex boasted eight airstrips, luxurious living quarters, a constant supply of water and electricity, and—most importantly—19 laboratories dedicated to the manufacture of cocaine. Despite its top-secret nature, the base was located and destroyed in 1984 by the DEA.

The Whole Bushel

Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the Medellin Cartel was one of the world’s most powerful criminal enterprises. At the height of its operations, the group raked in an estimated $60 million per day through a variety of activities including extortion, kidnapping, arms trafficking, and political assassinations, with their main money-spinner being the production and smuggling of cocaine throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.

With all of this cash, the group could afford to operate several facilities. However, of all of these, the most impressive and extensive was Tranquilandia (“tranquility land”), a cocaine processing complex based in a remote jungle region of Caqueta, Colombia.

Within the complex – which was guarded by a small army of well-trained, heavily-armed militia – there were a total of 19 laboratories, all of which were dedicated to the processing and production of cocaine from raw coca leaves. The eight airstrips that the cartel built to serve the facility ensured that these laboratories received a steady supply of the necessary processing chemicals, as well as provided a means of exporting the vast quantities of cocaine back to civilisation.

Despite the remote location, however, the people working at Tranquilandia were adequately provided for. Alongside luxurious dormitories, several large generators supplied the facility with electricity, and the nearby Yari River ensured a constant water supply.

The beginning of the end of Tranquilandia came in 1983, after the DEA heard rumors of a massive production base somewhere near Caqueta. In an undercover operation, they sold several barrels of ether (a key component in the manufacture of cocaine) to one of the cartel’s members, who then transported the goods to Tranquilandia. Unfortunately for him, the DEA had rigged the barrels with tracking devices, enabling them to locate the facility.

In March 1984, the DEA—working with members of the Colombian Police—raided the plant. In the aftermath, they arrested hundreds of workers and seized assets totalling over $1.2 billion, a figure which consisted of seven airplanes, 13.8 tons of cocaine, and 11,800 drums of chemicals. After the bust, the drugs paradise that was Tranquilandia was leveled, never to be rebuilt again.

Show Me The Proof

More Terrible Than Death: Drugs, Violence, and America’s War in Colombia, Robin Kirk
PBS: Thirty Years Of America’s Drug War
Dangerous Liaisons: Organized Crime and Political Finance in Latin America
Cocaine Quagmire: Implementing the U. S. Anti-Drug Policy in the North Andes, Sewall H. Menzel