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NATPE: Univision Acquires Drama Series About Mexican Drug Lord (Exclusive)

Andres Lopez - P 2014
Omar Cruz
Writer Andres Lopez

UPDATED: "The Drug Baron" will start airing later this year on the UniMás channel and is being written by a former member of a drug cartel who has become a best-selling author and screenwriter.

Univision has acquired U.S. rights to a dramatic Spanish-language series called The Drug Baron (El Varon de la Droga), The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively.

Based on the real-life exploits of the notorious Mexican drug dealer Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, the drama is written by a former member of his drug cartel who has become a best-selling author in Latin America.

Univision said it has acquired a minimum of 60 episodes that will air sometime in 2014 on its UniMas channel, which reaches nearly 90 percent of all U.S. homes in which Spanish is the primary language. Univision declined to reveal the name of the production company, the owner of global rights or what they paid. The series hasn’t yet been cast.

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The screenwriter of the series, Andres Lopez, first started writing while he was serving time in a Miami prison for drug trafficking. After he served 20 months, he walked out in 2004 with the manuscript for his first book, The Cartel of Snitches (El Cartel de los Sapos) which became a best-seller.

That book became a successful movie and later a hit TV series that critics praised for its stark realism and insider’s perspective on the workings of the drug cartel. He also wrote a Spanish language series called Mafia Dolls (Las Munecas de la Mafia), which had successful runs in Latin America and on Spanish language TV in the U.S.

Lopez will write the new series based on the real life of Guzman, a Mexican drug lord who is the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. Forbes calls him “the world’s most powerful drug trafficker,” and estimates his cartel is responsible for a quarter of all illegal drugs that enter the U.S. It places the cartel’s annual revenue at over $3 billion a year.

According to Forbes, the city of Chicago branded Guzman the first public enemy number one since Al Capone.

In 2001, Guzman escaped from jail in a laundry cart. Last summer there was a report he had been killed, but that was then discounted; he is now believed to still be hiding in the mountains in Mexico.

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“This new series promises to further explore the complicated and extremely dangerous life of a major drug lord, beyond just the ‘business’ to the toll it takes on his personal life, and those around him, “ according to the Univision announcement.

“I’m extremely excited to see ‘El Varón de la Droga'  being brought to the screen on UniMas,” said Lopez. “Their programming strategy of offering cutting-edge, alternative drama fits perfectly with the ‘ripped-from-the-headlines’ timeliness of my latest work.”

The announcement “speaks to our commitment to delivering the best alternative programming in the U.S.,” said Alberto Ciurana, Univision Network‘s president of programming and content. “And by having Andres on board as screenwriter, we will be able to offer our audience an unprecedented experience in terms of authenticity and realism.”