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Meet the Drug Lords: Inside the Real Narcos TX: 2 Aug 2018, Week 31

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Ex-Special Forces soldier, Jason Fox, used to hunt down drug lords for a living. Now - in this dramatic new three-part series - he travels through South America meeting the kind of gangster he was once sent to take out. This time, he’s unarmed, and at their mercy.

Travelling as a guest on their home turf, Foxy seeks to understand how the billion-dollar cartels operate. What kind of lives do their members have, what does their work involve, and how do they continue to evade the law?

From the underworld kingpins to their foot soldiers - the assassins who enforce their decrees - from the producers of the drugs to the traffickers who ingeniously smuggle them across national borders undetected, Foxy enters the cartel strongholds of Mexico, Colombia and Peru, to reveal the brutal hidden worlds that he was once tasked with destroying.

Episode 1 - Mexico
Mexico is home to the world’s most powerful drug cartels, making it one of the most dangerous places in the world – drug violence has caused the death or disappearance of 200,000 people since 2006.

The Sinaloa Cartel is the most formidable and dangerous drug gang of them all, and with extraordinary access to this multi-billion dollar criminal network, Jason enters a world where his life is literally in the hands of the cartel.

Tracking down one of the Sinaloa cartel’s lieutenants, charged with protecting the family of cartel boss, El Chapo, Jason learns this feared killer loves the money, cars and lifestyle his position brings, but also fears every day, he might himself be killed.

Jason then travels into the Golden Triangle, the Heroin and Crystal Meth producing heartland of the Sinaloa Cartel, to meet one of the Cartel’s security chiefs, a man who runs his own hundreds strong, heavily armed, cartel army. A man who is such a high profile target for the military that in heart stopping scenes, five helicopters full of heavily armed Marines appear and seem to have located their prize.

Jason meets with a former hit-man, known as Wolf boy, who at the age of just 12, was sent into the world of cartel assassin training camps. Wolf boy assassinated more than 30 people for the cartel, before finally turning himself into the police when he realised the cartel had decided to kill him.

Finally Jason travels to Acapulco a town caught in the middle of a turf war between cartels. Out on patrol with Hector, a CSI investigator, Jason witnesses the bloody aftermath of the murder of a man dismembered and laid out in the street as a warning to others. Even for an experienced Special Forces soldier like Jason, the extraordinary brutality of this killing is shocking.

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Episode 2: Colombia
Colombia is where the global narcotics industry began, and despite more dollars being spent on defeating the drug barons there than anywhere else in the region, it remains one of the biggest traffickers of cocaine on the planet.

Jason travels to Buenaventura, a port area through which an estimated quarter of the world’s cocaine is smuggled. In the surrounding slums he meets a trafficker preparing to paddle £10 million worth of cocaine in a canoe to a waiting container ship, right under the noses of the authorities.

With so much money at stake the drug gangs will stop at nothing to control this key trafficking hub, with those living in the slums often drawn into this world of extreme violence. An active cartel assassin, tasked with killing members of the slum community he lives in, tells Jason he is deeply troubled by what he does, but knows if he refuses a hit, he himself will be killed.

The cartels in Colombia constantly develop new and innovative ways to evade capture and when Jason visits a Navy base he discovers a surprisingly sophisticated solution used by the Narcos to carry hundreds of millions of dollars of cocaine undetected, as far as the USA.

In Medellin Jason meets Popeye, close friend and chief assassin for Pablo Escobar, helping the infamous drug lord build a powerful empire, personally killing 257 people in the process, including a presidential candidate and overseeing thousands more murders.

Episode 3: Peru
In Peru, Jason travels to an area known as ‘Cocaine Valley’ - a remote, treacherous spot in the foothills of the Andes - where hundreds of tonnes of cocaine are made every year.

Deep in the jungle under cover of darkness Jason meets one of the valley’s most renowned cocaine chefs who prepares pure cocaine in his hidden, pop up lab.

Almost half a million people rely in some way on the drug cartels to survive, so not surprisingly outsiders aren’t welcomed. As morning breaks the chef spots police informants and Jason has to make a swift exit, hidden in the back of a pick-up truck.

Transporting the drugs out of ‘Cocaine Valley’ are hundreds of young men, known as Mochileros, who trek for days with many kilos of cocaine in their backpacks from the jungle labs to hidden, jungle landing strips from where it can be flown out of Peru. Jason joins a group of young Mochileros on their dangerous trek, hiking with them as they try to avoid capture by the police, or robbery by rival drug gangs, to learn why they take such extraordinary risks.

The elite DIRANDRO police unit, formed by the Peruvian government in a bid to eradicate the booming cocaine industry, invites Jason on a helicopter-borne raid to destroy a jungle cocaine lab, but with the cartels able to adapt and reorganise quickly, is this strategy having any real impact?

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