Episode #13- Narco Mindset Podcast -Harold- A Tribute to Jeri and Lynn Ross
Harold- A Tribute to Jeri and Lynn Ross
April 22, 2020
Host: Jorge Valdes Ph.D. - An Author, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and You Tuber
Co-Host: Anthony Petrucci
EPISODE SHOW NOTES
In this episode, Dr. Valdes wants to pay tribute to two amazing ladies, Jeri Ross and Lynn Ross. Jeri and Lyn are the late Harold Rosenthal’s daughters, and Dr. Valdes refers to the book. See you in the Sky, written by Jeri Ross, who is a passionate advocate for families affected by incarcerations. Dr. Valdes suggests that the real victims of the selfishness of those of us who break the law are the children of the offenders. Dr. Valdes refers to the chapter in the book where Harold writes to Jeri to tell her how Manuel Noriega’s goons tortured him and me after being arrested in Panama. It is a great book that I pray will help families heal. The podcast is riveting with raw stories of the tortures and how Dr. Valdes and Harold were able to live through them.
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TRANSCRIPTION OF EPISODE #13
INTRO: Before we watched TV shows and movies on Narcos, and even before Pablo Escobar’s rise to fame, there was one man who was the ultimate Narco. He lived the Narco life of greed, money and power but found a way to reclaim his life, and use his astonishing experiences to empower others to live a life of hope, meaning and redemption. Welcome to the Narco Mindset podcast where Dr. Jorge Valdes shares his journey through life before and after the Medellín Drug Cartel. From torture and multiple prison sentences to how he refocused his life onto a path of principles learned as a Narco, it’s time to share that raw truth with you, right here on the Narco Mindset podcast with your host, Dr. Jorge Valdes.
Jorge: Today in the Narco Mindset podcast, in memory of one of my co-defendants, Harold Rosenthal. I was kept handcuffed to the bars at all times. Had they separated us, one or both of us might have given up. But his spirit was that of a warrior. They would beat us till we would pass out but at the end, they would always say, “Your dad is a hell of a man.” When we commit a crime, it’s because we’re selfish people but society is constantly judging us. You’ve got these federal laws with the minimum mandatories that were made for one simple reason, inventory. Well, let’s act like we are under God.
Welcome to the Narco Mindset podcast. I am your host, Dr. Jorge Valdes. Today, I’m going to deviate a little bit from our regular program because I think it’s a great follow-up to the war on drugs and the massive incarceration. I want to dedicate this episode that you’re going to find fascinating to two ladies, Jeri and Lynn Ross. In memory of one of my co-defendants, Harold Rosenthal, who died at the Atlanta Penitentiary, and with whom I ended up crashing the airplane over the jungles of Panama, and as the pilots went ahead and told the authorities who I was and what I was doing then we ended up in a cell and being tortured. Jeri wrote a wonderful book that I’ve been reading. I really don’t read a lot of books about this because I’ve lived this life so I really don’t need to hear about what somebody else has lived. It’s called ‘See You in the Sky’ and it is about her relationship with her father who was absent because Harold was quite a character.
I’m going to start by giving you a little background on how I met Harold, and where we went, and what had happened. Then I want to read to you the letter that her father went ahead and sent her from prison in Atlanta after he had gotten a life sentence. I met Harold through one of my attorneys, Harold Rosenthal, when I had decided to expand my operations to Bolivia. Manuel did not want to back me on this operation. He thought it was too dangerous. We were making already between $1-3 million a month so why go to Bolivia and deal with those people when he had had a really bad experience. One of his nephews went ahead and went to Bolivia trying to buy a kilo to sell it in Colombia because in Bolivia, it was half the price. It was $10,000, and this is back in 1978 when in Colombia, it was 18-22. Lo and behold, after Manuel spending quite a bit of money, he ends up receiving his son in a box cut up in pieces, so his experience with those people was that they were pretty savage and he thought that there was no reason for me to go there and try and make a deal.
Well, in my eyes, I wasn’t satisfied with what we were doing. I wanted to expand, and by going to Bolivia, we could end up, number one, buying cocaine for half the price, 10,000 versus 20, because this time, Colombia was not producing any cocaine. Colombia, all that they were doing is taking the base, and yes, they had labs where they were crystalizing it but they were not producing any cocaine themselves.
When I got this opportunity that was presented to me to work with the government of Bolivia, and I was going to pay 10,000, but more important was that they were going to go ahead and give me, for every kilo that I bought cash, they were going to give me one on credit. At the end of the day, just to give round numbers, I could have ended up making anywhere between five to six, seven million dollars a month, and we were going to do three trips a day. Manuel and the cartel did not want me to use the regular airplanes that we had, so I had to go ahead and find me a pilot I had never worked with.
My attorney at that time, Mike Kessler, who had represented most of the big drug dealers in the United States, ended up introducing Harold to me. We hit it off right off the bat. Harold had a lot of experience in Colombia, a very, very interesting person. He had worked with the guerillas in Colombia, and at that time, they thought that he was a communist Marxist but in reality, what happened was that Harold had this huge heart for people that were suffering and people that were abused. He had spent a lot of time in Colombia and saw some of the abuses the government had done and how the guerillas were fighting at that time supposedly to better the country. I talked to Harold, and, perfect, not a problem.
We would go to Bolivia, we would stop on the way back to Colombia and refuel then he would refuel in Nicaragua where he had great contacts, and I also had contacts with [inaudible 00:05:08], and he had an airstrip in Corn Island that we could refuel. Then they would bring it up to North Florida, and all for that, he was going to charge me $5,000 a kilo. Well, that was really good because, at this time, we were spending $7,000 coming from Colombia. When we had made all the arrangements, we headed out, and Manuel and I flew to Bogota, and we were going to meet Harold and the pilots there so that we could go about an hour north in a town called Villa Vicencio and look at the airstrip with the pilots so that they would know where to come back to.
This was really my first interesting experience with Harold. Somehow, Harold got to the hotel before we did. I had a presidential suite of the Bogota Hilton at that time. When I got there, Harold was already in the room. That night, we went out to eat and we got some girls. I remember about one o’clock in the morning, I got up to go get another bottle of champagne. I was in the room with some girls in my room, and as I get up, and I headed towards the kitchen, lo and behold, I stumbled over Harold. He was sleeping on the floor. I said, “Harold, we have four bedrooms in this suite. Why are you sleeping on the floor?” He said something very prophetic to me. He said, “Jorge, this is the problem with you. You’re so used to the good life that one day if you have to sleep on the floor, you're going to have a really rough time.” Did I realize that or did I come to really understand that when a week later, I was sleeping on the floor of a Panamanian jail?
When we crash-landed over Bolivia, as I detailed in some of my previous episodes, we crash-landed because we lost both alternators. There was no way that we could get the fuel from the bladder that we had inside the airplane up to the wing tanks. Both engines turned off and we ended up crash-landing in Panama. Harold’s first reaction, which I should have listened to, was, “Get the flare gun and blow up the airplane.” We had 200 kilos of cocaine inside. We had ether and I’m like, “Look, I’m not going to blow up, there’s about $7 million worth of reasons why not to blow it up.” I mean, we were selling each kilo for $70,000 in California at that time so I’m not going to blow it up. Anyways, I know what to do if something happens because these authorities in all Latin American countries can be bought pretty quickly.
Well, it was very difficult. We had to jump off the airplane because the airplane nose-dived so there was really not an easy way for anybody to go and search the airplane unless they brought a ladder and climbed on the airplane. We thought that we were pretty secure. We jumped out with our briefcases, and when we jumped out, sure enough, the military came. I had $10,000 in the hidden compartment. I had about $500 cash in my pocket. I took out $200 and I gave it to the head guy, the sergeant in charge of the little precinct.
It was in a little town called Chiriquí in the province of David, which is about an hour from Costa Rica. I told him if he could take me to a hotel, I would get some people to come tomorrow to fix the airplane. The airplane was gone. All I was going to do was get somebody to come over, pick up the cocaine and we were going to send it over through Costa Rica because we had spent a million dollars at that time in helping elect the President of Costa Rica.
He took us to a little hotel, I made a phone call, and sure enough, they ended up waiting for us and telling us no problem, they would send the car the following day, and then we would go to Costa Rica, and from there, we’ll figure out how to get the cocaine to Miami. Well, lo and behold, that was my first big mistake. I should have told the sergeant what we were doing and get him $2,000, $3,000. He would have made sure that he himself would have taken it over the border. This is what happens in life. When you cross those lines and you get away with things, and you start getting this God-complex where you think that nothing can happen to you, you ended up getting overconfident.
That’s where we make those critical mistakes that have life-long impacts. It’s like a gambler. The worst thing that can happen to a gambler when he goes to Vegas is to win the first time because he’ll always think he’s going to win again. Same thing with the drug dealer, same thing with anything that we do in life that’s just not right. People that use drugs, people that use cocaine. They thought, “Oh, I can control this. It’s not a problem.” Well, I ended up seeing people blow fortunes trying to buy that cocaine to give them that false high so that they would think that they were invincible.
Anyways, what happened is that I gave them my passport to the sergeant so they can get them stamped. Little did I know, he had to call Panama. When he called the City of Panama, immediately my name jumped up. Before you know it, the DEA was there, the Consul-General was there and the head of the G2 Forces. They came over, they found the cocaine, and when we went back to the station from the hotel to pick up our passports, we got immediately arrested. The next day, the Attorney General came and I said, “Listen, don’t waste my time or your time. How much money for me to get out of here, how much money to get the cocaine back?” He said, “The cocaine has been sold but you can be out of here for $250,000.” I said, “No problem. Here is a number. Call this number, give this code and you have the money here the next day.”
Sure enough, the next day when the money arrived, that night he came to see me at the jail and he said, “Look, I have it all arranged. We’re going to transfer you tomorrow to the City of Panama. They are going to take you in front of the G2. The DEA is going to be there. They’re going to roughen you up a little bit. Don’t say anything. Just keep quiet and just stick to your story that you thought you were carrying arms for the Sandinistas, and we’ll let you go. We’ll send you to Costa Rica.” I made my critical mistake. I told Harold the plan and what had happened, and then I made the mistake of telling the pilots, “Listen, stop being scared.” These guys were 6’3”, 6’4”, big old Georgia boys but they were petrified. “Look, stop being scared. It’s all taken care of. I just bribed the Attorney General. They are going to take us, roughen us up a little bit, and then that night we’ll be headed to Costa Rica.”
When they took us to Panama City, the DEA was there and the head of the G2, Lino, was there. They sat us in chairs against the wall in this empty room, almost like a small ballroom, 30 feet in length and 12 feet in width. They brought out this little Panamanian young kid, couldn’t have been older than 20 years old, could not have weighed 100 pounds, soaking wet, about 5’3”, naked, handcuffed. They threw him on the floor and they stuck a broomstick up his ass, and blood just spluttered all over the place. They told us that they had just caught him with 75 pounds of marijuana. Imagine, we had 200 kilos of cocaine. When that happened, the two pilots immediately broke, and not only did they tell them that my story was a lie, that I was the biggest drug dealer in America, they told them that I had just bribed the Attorney General. From there on it just became hell.
They took them to another room. Harold and I knew that they were spilling their guts, and they took us to a jail called La Modelo. Immediately when we got to jail, they took all our clothes off, left our underwear on, stripped butt-naked. They brought us down this dungeon that looked like something from Man of La Mancha. I mean, it was horrific. It was way at the bottom, maybe two flights down. The dungeon was about, I say, five cells on each side with an aisle way in the middle, and no bathroom, just a little trough where we would pee and we had to poop. Luckily, they didn’t feed us for almost 30 days so we didn’t have that much to crap, and that was it. They threw us in there, and that’s where the tortures began, day and night, for many, many days.
I want to read to you from this book because I think it’s pretty fascinating what Harold writes to her, which, of course ... Well, when we went to trial in the United States, afterward, they gave me 15 years. Harold pled to 15 years. I lost the trial, he pled guilty. Then he was sent to Memphis and escaped after two years, and went to Colombia. Eventually, they caught him, they gave him a life sentence and then he went to a jail in Atlanta. Jeri Ross writes in this amazing book, See You in the Sky, she writes, “The pilot, a couple of crew, dad and his partner, Jorge Valdes were flying in a twin-engine Beechcraft airplane from Colombia to Nicaragua with cocaine valued at $4 million.” Actually, it was valued at about $7 million. “At 5,000 feet, flying at 200 m/h, they lost both engines and crashed moments later in a small open field lined by thick banana bushes.
When Manuel Noriega, then a colonel in the Panamanian army, ordered his men to search the crashed plane, they found the kilos of cocaine. My father and Jorge, who was only 22 at that time, were put in a jail cell and tortured in the [inaudible 00:12:58] of the Carcel Modelo, the vilest prison in Panama. This prison had been condemned for 40, 50 years. I have never in my life seen anything so horrific.
This was my father’s story about their torture by Lino, the man responsible for getting information out of prisoners.” He writes to her, “I was put in a chair and whatever they did to him ...” We were both in the same cell and thank God, that was actually what saved my life, that they made the mistake of keeping us both in the same cell. Whatever they did to me, they did to him.
“I was put in a chair with my hands cuffed in a painful position under the chair. I was beaten and then taken to the dungeon cell. It was an old Spanish fort from over 200 years ago when Spain ruled the land. I was stripped naked. Nothing was in the cell, just a dirty concrete floor. I was kept handcuffed to the bars all the time. Lino’s torture techniques were electric cattle prods, beating, gasoline thrown on me and naked all day, and hit if I moved much but I didn’t talk.” He went on to explain how he was able to survive such a brutal predicament.
“I conditioned myself to pain all my life. I beat myself with a bunch of branches and squeezed my fingers and toes with pliers. Plus, fighting, boxing had conditioned me.” He was a price fighter, Harold, when he was younger. “I conditioned me for pain. When I was in South America, I would run through all the jungle grass that cut and hurt to condition my skin. I still tried to keep myself conditioned by running barefoot summer and winter and just wearing shorts on cold days. I tumble and roll on the ground, and have an obstacle course here for myself. I have a high threshold for pain and don’t stop working out because of an injury. In general, what do you think of your daddy now? It’s pretty crazy, don’t you think?”
“I had to agree. He had never been a regular father and he was crazy to do that and the dangerous things that he did. Dad’s accomplice, Jorge Valdes, also wrote about the experience at La Modelo. He published his version of the plane crash and captured it in a book called Coming Clean: The True Story of a Cocaine Drug Lord and His Unexpected Encounter with God. His account matches exactly and expands upon my father. He describes terrible torture as the guards tried to extract information from both men, and he concludes the chapter ‘Tortured’ with a shocking scene. Don’t let them defeat you, Jorge ...” This is something that is in my book, Coming Clean, my first book, and then she copies that because she’s going to make a point about it. I’m telling the story about Harold and me inside the cell.
Harold is saying to me, “Don’t let them defeat you, Jorge,” Harold kept saying. “The harder you fight back, the easier it will be.” In our underwear, Harold and I lay motionless on a concrete floor stained with the sticky mosaic of blood, excrement, and vomit. Our torturers made a crucial mistake in allowing Harold and me to remain in the same cell. Had they separated us, one or both of us might have given up. But together, our power increased exponentially. Harold and I talked through the night. Occasionally, I glanced over him and just shake my head, amazed at his stamina. He was filthy, his body reeked with a horrible stench as did mine, but his spirit was that of a warrior. He had the heart of a giant. We were all alive and we had not given any information to the guards.
Jeri continues in her writing, and she says, “I was horrified to tears to read about my father’s torture, yet deeply moved to read that Jorge described my father as having the heart of a warrior and the heart of a giant. Would Jorge have survived if my father were any other way? Would dad have survived? After four weeks of brutal torture, dad and Jorge’s ordeal in La Modelo finally showed signs of coming to an end. They were told they would be escorted to a plane that would take them to Costa Rica. Instead, when they got to the airport, a platoon of soldiers streamed in and put them on a plane to Miami where they were arrested and charged with conspiracy to bring narcotics into the United States.
Dad spent eight months in solitary confinement in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary while the government built a case against him.” The funny thing about that, I’ll tell you, when we arrived in court, Harold, I did not know to my surprise, at this time was a fugitive from a case he had in Macon, Georgia. When we arrived in Miami and we were taken in front of the judge, the first thing the judge said to him was, “Welcome back, Mr. Rosenthal.” Then I realized he had been a fugitive. He had faked his own death. He sent the death certificate and they wiped out the case. Here he shows up again in front of this federal judge in Miami, and the judge says, “Welcome back, Mr. Rosenthal.” Harold, with the straightest face you’ve ever seen, looked at the judge and said, “Your Honor, I am the second Jew to come back from the dead,” and the judge just couldn’t help but cracked up. It was amazing.
I want to talk about what really allowed us to survive in that jail. Think about this, I had just turned 23 years old. If you ask yourself, can a young person at that age go through tortures that are just unheard of? I mean, literally, I would say that 3-4 times a day they would come, they would beat us to death. They would kick us. We were handcuffed to our feet. After they took us from standing on the bars, they put us on the floor, and we were handcuffed day and night with our feet and our hands, with just our underwear. At this time, our underwear was full of pee. It was just disgusting because they would beat us till we would pass out, literally pass out. When we come through, little while later, they’d come again. Would I have been able to sustain those tortures at that time? Honestly, if I look back today, I wonder, “How did I do this?”
I bled for five years every time I went to take a piss after wards. They hit us with cattle prods to our testicles, and I mean, we would jump so high off the floor in pain that somehow, we passed out. But as I already told you, I think it was in the second episode of the Narco Mindset podcast, I had this vision one time when I was passed out, and it was I was shaving. My son, who really at this time was only six months old, he came to me and in my vision, he was about 7-8 years old, and he was crying. I’m like, “Jorgie, why are you crying?” He said, “Daddy because they said my father is not a man.” At that moment in time, I swore to myself I would die in the jail but I would never, ever tell on anyone.
I stood up for people that I knew for a fact that the minute they had a chance, would betray me. It didn’t matter because I was not being a man for my partners, for my associates, I was being a man because I wanted to live a certain life. I wanted to live a life that my children, whenever they encounter anyone that knew me, they can say, “Your dad is obnoxious, your dad is a pain in the ass, your dad is loud.” They can say whatever but at the end, they will always say, “Your dad is a hell of a man. Your dad, when he says yes, it’s yes, when he says no, it’s no.” You know what was amazing? I never told my parents when they brought me to the United States what had happened. I told them that everything was fine. One day, when my father comes to visit me in prison, and he’s crying. I’m like, “Why are you crying, dad?” He says, “Well, we know what happened in Panama.”
I had no idea how they would find out because I know there were only two people that knew, Harold and myself. He said, “I know how you were tortured and how you just stood up, and they beat you until they just couldn’t beat you anymore.” I’m like, “Why? Who would ever tell you that? That’s a lie.” Of course, I didn’t want my parents to suffer. What good was it for them to know what I had gone through? I’d put them through enough hell when my mother found out I was a drug dealer. Up to that moment, she had no clue I was a drug dealer. I had all that money because I had a lot of legal businesses. Now my dad says, “Because Manuel brought over the Panamanian that tortured you guys.”
Apparently, the cartel went back, and they found the guy that was part of the tortures, not because they wanted to avenge me, I don’t know what happened to him after they took him to my father’s house but really, in reality, because they just wanted to know what I had said. I was really mad at them. I wasn’t mad at them for finding the person, I was mad at them because they told my father. Looking back, I probably would have done the same thing because they were convinced ... they knew how the tortures in South America were, and they thought that there was no way in the world that this 23-year-old kid is going to put up with that.
At that time, remember, this is the early beginnings. The Medellín Cartel was not even named at this time. The Medellín Cartel didn’t come into existence until ’80, ’81. We were the original group that became the Medellín Cartel even though the truth of the matter is we became known as the Medellín Drug Cartel but even though there was no Medellín Drug Cartel. That’s a farce that the government did to label all of us in Colombia. There were 4-5 different groups. Pablo in ’81, ’82 began his group, the Ochoas began their group, El Mexicano, Gacha, began his group and then you had Carlos Lehder. There were three other groups that were just as big. There was a guy that in reality was bigger than all of them and no one has ever written about him. And it’s Frank Jiménez. He was very, very low key, and they called him El Negro but it’s actually he who started bringing big loads. Before all these people ever became anybody or anything, we were bringing in 800-1,000 kilos a month in ’77, ’78.
Anyway, back to the story. How could I survive those tortures? I look at it, and in life, if we have a mission, something that is real, something that we’re willing to live with, it’s amazing what the human body can take. To me, I’m almost convinced that I am alive because of Harold. Right across from us, there was this Panamanian kid who had been caught with 20 pounds, had been there for about six months. They hadn’t beaten him anymore. He said they beat him the first two months. He spent his whole day licking the bars. He had lost his mind. I said to myself, “I want to die. I’m going to die here and I’ll do whatever I can but I’m not going to lose my mind.” Harold fought for me. Harold was like, “Leave him alone. Beat me. He’s just a young kid.”
That gave me courage because here’s somebody that I’d just really met two weeks earlier, three weeks earlier, asking to take tortures for me. He hardly knew me but he saw how strong I was and that made me stronger. Eventually, like everything else in life, that’s why I tell parents, “Don’t hit your kids. The day you hit your kids, the day you spank your small child, make it count because if you just hit your children for anything all the time, it comes to a point where the pain doesn’t hurt anymore.” Honestly, I say probably after the fifteenth or sixteenth day, we were numbed. They could come in and do whatever they wanted to do. I mean, it was evident that it was hurting and we would pass out. If we did pass out, we didn’t know. They'd just come back and they'd figure out, “They're going to be out 30 minutes, and we’ll come back in an hour.”
First of all, the cell was dark. There was no light. We had no idea what day it was. We had no idea if it was day or night. Nothing. The only water that came was from a pipe and we didn’t even know when the pipe would be turned on. The pipe had about three or four holes that would drip out into the floor. We tried to position ourselves on the floor close to the pipe because if we were passed out when they opened the pipe, we wouldn’t drink, and water. The food, after a while, your body doesn’t pain for food anymore. But for water, it does. We were just dying for water because literally we would get ... I would say that all the water that we ended up getting was less than a cup a day. It was a very horrific experience but by Harold having that heart of a warrior, having that courage, it made me feel stronger, and then we just started cussing.
I started cussing Noriega to the guards that until one day I said to the guards, “Look, tell Noriega that he knows I got the power,” because this was interesting. At this time, Noriega was working for the cartel. He was working for the DEA and working for the cartel. I think that what happened was he got pissed off that I paid the Attorney General versus paying him. I ended saying to the guards, “Listen, tell Noriega to kill me. Kill me now because if he doesn’t kill me, the day I get out, and I will get out of here, I’m going to come, I’m going to find him, I’m going to find his family, I’m going to rape his wife and children right in front of him then I’m going to shoot him. I’m going to cut him into pieces.” Now, I’m not a killer. I’ve never in my life killed anyone but in reality, the more I thought that the more dramatic I make it, I would force his hands and he would just tell him to kill me because I welcomed death so bad.
To me, dying was a lot better than ever cracking. I got the point that I wasn’t cracking anymore. That the thought of speaking, giving in to the tortures, didn’t matter because we become numb to the pain. My fear was not the tortures anymore. That was like eating 3-4 meals a day. My fear was losing my mind. My fear was being like that kid across licking those bars day and night, scratching his head, all over his body, and not having any idea where he was, what the world was about or why he was even there. That was my fear, that I would lose my mind so bad that if they ever sent me to the United States, because I knew that eventually, they would, I knew eventually the cartel would get to it because I knew too much. My fear was that when they did, that I was crazy in an institution, and I would be a burden to my parents. I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. So, to me, death was just a welcomed friend.
Well, thank God, the second day of those threats, towards the end, Noriega came to see us. I thought that was it, he was going to shoot us personally. The truth of the matter was he was laughing. He was like, “Why are you blaming me? It was your pilots who ratted you out, and of course, you made the big mistake. You paid the wrong person.” Well, I said, “How much?” He said, “$250,000.” It seemed like that’s the going price in Panama because now before, I paid 250 for four people. Now I’m paying 250 for just Harold and myself. He said, “$250,000 and I’ll send you to Costa Rica.” Again, I gave him the number with the code, he made the phone call, the following day the money was there, and the day after, they came and they took Harold and me.
We were naked, and they took us to this wall, and they had this fireman hoses and that was just more painful than the cattle prod to my testicles. I mean, they put that hose full blast on our body trying to get the stench off us, trying to get all the blood that was all over our body, and all the shit and piss. I mean, we were horrible to look at. Thank God there were no mirrors because I would have wanted to commit suicide if I saw myself. Anyway, they did that, they wouldn’t stop with the hose unless we scrubbed and scrubbed our heads, and they threw us a bar of soap and then they gave us our old clothes back. The other workers, they were gone by that time. They took us to the airport, and we walked to where it said the flight for Costa Rica was. 10 minutes later, Interpol came, and they took us and threw us in a dungeon.
Harold did a lot of things in his life. He was a good man. He was a man of all men. I say he was a renaissance man. People like him just don’t exist anymore. He only would have had to wait another three years and he would have been paroled but in the jail in Memphis, he felt like a caged animal because he had lived in the jungles of Colombia for a long, long time. That’s the dichotomy of life. These girls loved their father. Their father spent most of their life away from them or in jail but it’s actually when he went to jail that Jeri talks about how they found their relationship. How they became a family, the two daughters.
One thing that I say about this massive incarceration that’s going on is that listen, the criminal is not the victim here. When we commit a crime, it’s because we’re selfish people and we deserve to be punished. You break the law, you need to be punished. The real victim is the children and the spouses and the families around them that can’t pick up their pieces. For a long time, one of the daughters couldn’t even tell people where her dad was because she was so ashamed.
Eventually, a co-worker found out that her dad was in prison, and she said to her one day, “You are so successful because your dad was a criminal.” Imagine the pain for her to hear that. I told her, “Listen, that same person would have said, if you were a bum, he would have said, “Hey, girl, you’re a bum because your father is a criminal.” But society is constantly judging us, and the worst thing is, we prisoners or we inmates or we criminals, whatever we were, we don’t care about being judged. We deserve it but our children do not, and society is really, really cruel because the children are the victims.
First, they don’t choose to come into the world. Second, they don’t choose their parents, and third, they don’t choose their parents’ choices and lifestyles but yet they are the ones that suffer the consequences. They're the ones that must travel long and far to go visit their parents. Their father was in jail or their mother. They're the ones that have to receive those phone calls. They're the ones that don’t have a father to tell them how to become a young lady, to protect them from predators, to protect them from guys taking advantage of them because both of these girls are beautiful women. I just thank God both of them have become very, very successful, and in prison, their dad gave them a lot of wisdom. Here’s another of the crimes of massive incarceration in these tough on crime statutes.
Harold was given a life sentence without any possibility of parole. He was in his 70's and sick, and then in his 80's and they would not release him even though he had letters from many, many influential people. He would go to his daughter ... he was an old man now. There was nothing that he would have done wrong. In reality, all that Harold did was thinking that he was helping poor people in Colombia, guerillas. I mean it is a distorted truth but it was his truth that he was trying to make the world a better place for people. For children that were being killed by the government. For people that were forced to be associated with the guerillas and they were persecuted.
This is a very, very complex world and a very complicated life and yeah, Harold escaped. Harold should have done 20, 25 years in jail but he didn’t have to die in jail. Even when he had less than a year to live, they could have let him go so that he could have spent that last year and be with his two daughters, and find healing and reconciliation, and talk through all this but you know, we’re very, very, very cruel. The sad thing about this is that we just don’t realize when we allow the government to impose these horrific sentences on people with the lie that they're tough on crime and tough on law because they want to make our community safer. They are not making our community safer; they’re making it more dangerous.
The chances are of a child that has a father in prison, chances are 70% that he will go through the whole prison system. What sense did it make? Who wins by letting Harold die in jail? His cost of medical, his cost of keeping was probably $75-100,000. Why do you and I, taxpayers, should pay for that? Once he’s served his sentence, once he received a just sentence, then allow them. There are people in state prisons for a murder that go home after 7-10 years in parole but yet, you’ve got these federal laws with the minimum mandatories that were made for one simple reason: inventory. Yeah, they want people to become inventory because the more prisoners we have, the more money the system makes. The system makes a lot of money. The system can pay some of these politicians unbelievable amounts of money so that they make sure that the sentences are tough so that nobody goes home.
The thing that we all need to think about this, it’s costing us, taxpayers, billions of dollars that we can use to provide things that really need to be provided like fair salary for teachers who have to have two jobs and yet they are training the future leaders of the world. We can use some of that money to create centers to help these kids find meaning in their life. Address that mental issue problem killing us in America. We can use that money to provide healthcare for so many people that don’t have the ability to have healthcare. But nobody stops to think that it’s our tax dollar that is paying for this corrupt system of massive incarceration. We need radical prison reform.
Again, I thank Trump that he started the first step. No other president has had the guts and it’s really sad because we thought Clinton was going to do it. he had a brother who went to jail. We thought Obama would do it because he comes from a minority, and most people affected by these tough laws are minorities but nobody’s done it. I thought George Bush would have done it because, in my eyes, he’s a godly man, whether you like him or not, but nobody did it. Nobody’s done it, and all we see is we are 2.4% of the world’s population but we have about 24% of all the world’s inmates.
I thank Jeri for her book. It’s called See You in the Sky. It’s a very, very compelling story. It’s a tear-jerker. I cried. Let me tell you this, I never cried since I was 10 years old and left Cuba, and had that traumatic experience at the airport. Never cried again. I didn’t cry one drop in the Panamanian jail being beaten to death day and night but I guess after I became a Christian, I do nothing but cry. Maybe I’ve become a wimp in my old age but this book will definitely make you cry. I mean, it took me a while to even be able to record this podcast because in realities, hearing the tale of those two amazing young ladies and what they went through, how they missed their dad and how distant they were, and to then get to hear the news where the government just, of course, when they take you to trial, you're bigger than Al Capone, everybody is.
I know people that are in jail and I’ve read the headlines, and I’m like, “Well, where’s Harold?” He was the biggest drug dealer in the world. He was not by no means. He wasn’t what they were trying to make him out to be. Yeah, he had shady characters and he fell through an informant from the DEA and the CIA that somehow touched on his mindset of revolutionary to try to make the world a better place.
Remember now, this is the ‘70's. This is early when the ’60's and the ‘70's I guess a lot of people wanted to be a communist Marxist. Harold would say no, he wasn’t a communist but he had Marxist ideals, and those ideals were that everyone should be equal, everyone should be treated the same, everyone should make the same. The thing is that it doesn’t work. I had it but I was a young kid in college. I read Das Kapital and I wanted to be a socialist. But the truth is that you grow up, and you realize that capitalism is the best system. It just needs to be checked somehow but the problem with socialism and the problem with communism is that taking a human incentive to be better and to be productive because if you're going to make the same as me, and you're lazy and don’t do shit then why should I? I just sit back and just let you get my paycheck every month. We see it in Cuba, societies do not grow. Invention dies. Just that capitalistic spirit of entrepreneur dies, and at the end of the day then you are totally controlled.
See You in the Sky is a great book. It goes into much, much more detail about Jeri’s experience, seeing her children grow up and not having a relationship with her father, and her not having a relationship with her father, and her sister too. But they are very close girls. They are amazing women and they’ve dedicated their whole lives now, Jeri has dedicated her who live to fight for prison reform. To fight for all those children that have parents incarnated. Those are the real victims. I don’t care who the hell you are. If your heart does not melt when you see these children without a father or a mother because they are in prison, and they should have nothing to do with that or many times the traumatic experience of the DEA or FBI, whoever it is, breaking in the door and dragging your father or mother away in handcuffs. That is a traumatic experience that will be with you forever.
Listen, no one is innocent in prison. Short of the people now that we have found out through DNA in some of the state prisons but in the federal system, I tell you there’s nobody that’s innocent. Everybody that’s there has done something wrong even though most of them would tell you they are all innocent but in the federal system, everyone there has been involved in something wrong.
We need to pay. We do wrong, we break the law, we need to pay because there has got to be justice. But there has got to be a way which works, which has happened in many prisons where people can be rehabilitated and the families can be rehabilitated. The families need as much counseling and help with those children. Now it’s sad but when my children were little, and people knew who I had been, they didn’t get to play with them. Now, of course, when people knew who I was, my children are super popular. The world has evolved.
These children go through a lot, a lot of pain. They feel abandonment. Do they feel like what was their part in this? What did they do wrong that mummy and daddy left them or what could they have done so mummy and daddy didn’t have to break the law to make money? You can imagine the questions are horrific, and just because one day daddy and mummy are released doesn’t just all wipe away. I know. My oldest son is an amazing young man but by the time he was 16 years old, I had been in jail for over 10 years. My younger kids, I was in jail for almost 5 years of their lives by the time they were 8-9 years old. It’s tough. It’s very, very tough, and we need to elect politicians and hold them accountable.
Prison reform needs to be at the forefront of what happens in our political dialog because we cannot allow all these special interest groups, all these private prisons. That’s the biggest racket in the world. We cannot allow all these people to continue to pay politicians to fund those campaigns that are costing horrific amounts of money at the cost of our taxpayers’ dollars and at the cost of a lot of not innocent people but at the cost of not being merciful. God is just but God is merciful. If we say we’re one country undivided under God, well, let’s act like we are under God because this prison sentence is a horrific situation.
Thank you so much for listening. I hope that you learned things about people that you probably never heard stories like these before. If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends about it, subscribe and help us to spread this movement that we’re trying to do. You can go to our webpage at jorgevaldesphd.com, sign in to our community and you will get a pdf or my latest book ‘Narco Mindset: Freedom Edition.” It is my mission to put a million books in the next five years in prisons across America. We are placing books left and right. The demand is immense. My book is transforming lives.
At the end of the day, if just one child does not continue in the cycle of criminal destruction and becomes a productive citizen then it would all be worthwhile. Again, thank you for helping us to spread this message. There is nothing in it for me but the burden that I have in my heart to make this a better world, and to give my children a better place to live and my grandchildren and your children and your grandchildren, and to help people find that maybe through my experiences they can be liberated from that sin or that deeper pain or that secret that’s deep within them.
We need to come clean with our families. We need to come clean with our children. We need to come clean with our God because there’s nothing more liberating than when we do come clean. So, again, spread the message, subscribe to the podcast, tell your friends, the power of three. Tell three of your friends and ask each one of them to tell three friends. Before you know it, you will be part of making a difference in this world. God bless you. Have a wonderful day.
OUTRO: We’ve come to the conclusion of this episode of the Narco Mindset podcast but your path towards hope, meaning and redemption continues. For more information and resources to help you on your path towards finding a life built on integrity, honor and truth, head to jorgevaldesphd.com and join our community. We appreciate you joining us for this episode and look forward to helping you find your turning point right here on the Narco Mindset podcast.