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As far as I know, "de lo contrario" means "otherwise" and "al contrario de" means "unlike".

Examples:

  • Toma el medicamento según las instrucciones del médico; de lo contrario, puede haber consecuencias graves.

  • El copiloto se quedó solo en la cabina, al contrario de lo que estipulaba el protocolo.

However, I have heard the following sentence in the Narcos TV series:

De lo contrario de Carlos Castaño, esa no lo va a desarmar. (= Unlike Carlos Castaño, this will not disarm you)

Context: A police officer X was recently disarmed by the right-wing paramilitary unit leader Carlos Castaño in a checkpoint. After that, he was assigned to the satellital phone tapping unit as punishment. The police officer shows up for his new assignment and meets the officer Y, in charge of this unit. Y asks what the police officer knows about technology and shows him the equipment used to track the wireless phone calls. Finally, Y says the sentence above to X, ironically referring to the equipment they will work with and to the fact that X was disarmed while working on the field.

In this sentence, "de lo contrario" means "unlike". Is that an usual additional meaning of this Spanish expression or is it a Colombian regionalism?

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    That Narcos sentence sounds so weird to me. Probably a regionalism. – wimi Jan 19 at 8:00
  • I haven't watched the series and am unversed in the details of the history it's based on. Could you expand the context paragraph? I am having trouble following the plot line you described. What does he mean by "esa no lo va a desarmar"? I get the impression you understood that part -- so can you explain it to me, please? – aparente001 Jan 19 at 17:21
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    @aparente001 "Esa" in that sentence is an ironic reference to the equipment they will work with. I have added it to the question. – Alan Evangelista Jan 19 at 17:57
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    @aparente001 Given the context, it is clear to me that the sentence means "That thing won't disarm you" (polite form). My question is about the odd fact that "de lo contrario" is used as "unlike" in this sentence. I expected to hear "al contrario" instead. – Alan Evangelista Jan 19 at 18:18
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    @aparente001 Police officer X was disarmed by Carlos Castaña and police officer Y is saying the sentence to X, so "de lo contrario de Carlos Castaña, esa no lo va a desarmar" can only mean "unlike Carlos Castaña, this one won't disarm you". Talking about a third person does not make sense here. – Alan Evangelista Jan 19 at 21:34
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Let me try to explain the two cases a bit more:

De lo contrario:

Toma el medicamento según las instrucciones del médico; de lo contrario, puede haber consecuencias graves.

Here, "de lo contrario" would be the same as "en el caso contrario", or "if the opposite happened", or as you said, "otherwise" so the sentence tells you to take the medicine following the doctor's instructions because otherwise, there would be bad consequences.

Al contrario de:

El copiloto se quedó solo en la cabina, al contrario de lo que estipulaba el protocolo.

In this case, "al contrario de" just means "contrary to", so the copilot was alone in the cabin, contrary to the protocol. "Unlike" works sometimes, but it would be more correct to think of it as "opposite/contrary to".

You can also say "al contrario que", when you are contrary to someone and not something:

Yo voté por ella, al contrario que mi amigo (I voted for her, contrary to my friend)

So, "X al contrario de Y" simply indicates that doing X contradicts Y, while "X, de lo contrario Y" indicates that Y would be the consequence of X.


As for your sentence from Narcos:

De lo contrario de Carlos Castaño, esa no lo va a desarmar. (= Unlike Carlos Castaño, this will not disarm you)

I am from Spain, and don't know about other countries, so it may be as you said a regionalism, but for me in Spanish that sentence does not make sense, because, it means something like "otherwise of Carlos Castaño, that will not disarm him".

The way I would phrase it is:

Al contrario que Carlos Castaño, esa no lo va a desarmar.

Which would mean "Unlike Carlos Castaño, this will not disarm him" or "Unlike Carlos Castaño, this will not disarm you" if you are using the formal.

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    Same thing here. I'm from Buenos Aires and have never heard or read "De lo contrario" being used in the sense of "Al contrario". This is either something regional from (part of) Colombia (or wherever the actor/scriptwriter actually is) or, otherwise, just plain wrong. We need a Colombian to confirm which one it is. – Wences Jan 31 at 18:58
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There is another meaning of "contrario": Lo contrario means "the opposite." The phrase you quoted is, I think, equivalent to

A diferencia del caso de Carlos Castaño, esa no lo va a desarmar.

or

En contraste con el caso de Carlos Castaño, esa no lo va a desarmar.

(I can't quite translate it to English because I don't understand the second clause in the context of the story.)

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