In Netflix’s biographical series ‘Griselda,’ Jorge “Rivi” Ayala-Rivera serves as Griselda Blanco’s top hitman and the general of her army. Although Rivi and Griselda are in rival camps at the start of the latter’s life in Miami, Amilcar’s arrest leads Rivi to the “Godmother.” In reality, Rivi was an infamous part of the Miami drug scene of the 1970s and 1980s. The crimes he allegedly committed for Griselda were vital for the latter’s emergence as the Godmother of southern Florida’s narcotics empire. Although Griselda got killed more than a decade ago in Colombia, Rivi is still alive!
Griselda Blanco’s Enforcer
Jorge “Rivi” Ayala-Rivera was born in Santiago de Cali, a city located in the Valle del Cauca department in Colombia. According to James Morton’s ‘The Mammoth Book of Gangs,’ Rivi stole cars while growing up in Chicago, where his father worked as a mechanic at a General Motors center. He entered the world of drugs by driving a truck to Miami for drug dealer Fernando Builles. Rivi joined the crew of Griselda, as per Morton, in 1981. “On Blanco’s instructions, Ayala kidnapped Hermanos Granados [one of rival drug dealer Papo Meija’s men] from the car park of a Ramada hotel, tied him up, locked him in a cupboard and left him to be collected by Blanco’s men,” Morton wrote about one of Rivi’s earliest assignments for Griselda.
According to Morton’s book, Rivi did several hits for Griselda. In the early 1980s, Griselda ordered a hit on Jesus “Chucho” Castro, who previously worked as an enforcer for her. Rivi’s efforts to kill Chucho resulted in the murder of the latter’s two-year-old son Johnny Castro. “At first, she [Griselda] was real mad because we missed the father. But when she heard we had gotten the son by accident, she said she was glad, that they were even,” Rivi told the police. Ayala and his crew also killed Alfredo and Grizel Lorenzo, a drug-dealing couple who didn’t settle their account with Griselda.
Rivi was arrested after he tried to rob a bank in Chicago. Eighteen months after the attempt was filmed by security cameras, he got arrested on a weapons charge in Florida. After confronting the possibility of a death sentence, Ayala decided to “give evidence against Griselda Blanco in exchange for the state not asking for the death penalty against him in the murders he had undertaken for her,” as per Morton’s book. With Rivi as the chief witness, the authorities built a solid case against Griselda but its credibility was severely affected after the hitman had phone sex with secretaries from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
After the cases were compromised, Griselda cut a plea deal in 1998, which saved her from a possible death penalty. Rivi, on the other hand, pled guilty in 1993 to three murders and got sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Jorge “Rivi” Ayala is Still in Prison
Jorge “Rivi” Ayala is still incarcerated in the Florida Department of Corrections’ level 6 security prison Suwannee Correctional Institution, located in Live Oak, Florida. Previously, he was imprisoned in Hamilton Correctional Institution, located in the city of Jasper in Hamilton County, Florida. In 2013, Rivi tried to be a free man after claiming that he had a “handshake deal” with Miami-Dade prosecutors in 1993 to gain parole after 25 years in prison. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens, however, denied the appeal by deeming it as “untimely.”
“Jorge deserves to get the benefit of the bargain. He doesn’t deserve to die in prison. He’s atoned for what he had done. All he’s asking for is the state attorney’s office to honor their agreement,” Rivi’s lawyer Jim Lewis told the reporters. “He [Rivi] feels, after all these years, he deserves a chance at redemption. I think he’s done a lot of good. He put a lot of people in jail, one of the few people who stood up to the Colombian Cartel. Hopefully, the State Attorney will forget about the foolishness with the phone calls and the secretaries and do the right thing and give him credit for what he’s done,” Lewis added at the time, as per the Miami Herald.
Assistant State Attorney Penny Brill made it clear at the time that the plea deal only indicated that the prosecutors “might” help. After getting imprisoned, Rivi collaborated with director Billy Corben for his documentary films ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ and ‘Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin’ With the Godmother.’ Corben and Aurin Squire then adapted Rivi’s life story to the stage as the play “Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy,” which premiered in 2019.
“I went to New World and was immersed in theater reading of plays and I’m reading [Rivi’s] deposition and it’s unlike any deposition I’ve seen. “These were not short ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Rivi was a cooperating witness and they were looking to him to expound and elaborate in every minute detail on these murders he was involved in,” Corben told the Miami Herald about the creation of the play. It is uncertain whether Corben consulted Rivi again for the play after working together on the documentary films.