Pablo Escobar
Born December 1, 1949 (1949-12)Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia
Died December 2, 1993 (1993-12-03) (aged 44)Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Alias(es) El Patrón, Don Pablo, El Señor, El Mágico
Conviction(s) drug trafficking and smuggling, assassinations, bombing, bribery, racketeering, money laundering, murder, political corruption
Status Deceased
Occupation Head of the Medellín Cartel
Spouse Maria Victoria Henao
Children Juan Pablo, Manuela Escobar

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Pablo Escobar

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Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria (December 1, 1949 – December 2, 1993) was a Colombian drug lord. Often referred to as the "World's Greatest Outlaw", he was indeed the most elusive cocaine trafficker ever to have lived. He is regarded as the richest and most successful criminal in world history. Some other sources state that he was the second richest criminal ever, after Amado Carrillo Fuentes. In 1989, Forbes magazine declared Escobar as the seventh richest man in the world, with an estimated personal fortune of US $25 billion. He owned innumerable luxury residences and automobiles and, in 1986, he attempted to enter Colombian politics, even offering to pay off the nation's US $10 billion national debt. It is said that Escobar once burned US$ 2 million in cash just to keep his daughter warm while on the run.

Early life

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Escobar was born in the village of Rionegro in Antioquia, Colombia, the third of seven children to Abel de Jesus Escobar, a peasant, and Hemilda Gaviria, an elementary school teacher. Pablo and his family resided in an adobe hut that had no electricity but had running water. This would place him solidly within the middle class in that part of Colombia at that time. Pablo and his brother were once sent home from school because Pablo had no shoes and no money to buy them. Escobar studied political science at a nearby university but was forced to drop out when he could not afford to pay the required fees. This was when he began his criminal career, allegedly stealing gravestones and sanding them down for resale to smugglers. His brother, Roberto Escobar, refutes this, claiming that the gravestones came from cemetery owners whose clients had stopped paying for site care and that they had a relative who had a legitimate monuments business. He studied for a short time at the University of Antioquia.

After this alleged hustling business, Pablo started doing whatever else he could to make money — from running petty street scams with his gang to selling contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets. He even conned people out of their cash when they would leave the bank. By the time he was 20, he was already an accomplished car thief. In the early 1970s, he was a thief and bodyguard, and he made a quick $100,000 on the side kidnapping and ransoming a Medellín executive before entering the drug trade. His next step on the ladder was to become a millionaire by working for the multi-millionaire contraband smuggler, Alvaro Prieto. Through his dedication and guile, Pablo became a millionaire by the time he was 22.

Rise to power

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A book released by Pablo's brother, Roberto Escobar, called The Accountant's Story discusses how Pablo rose from poverty and obscurity to become one of the richest men of the world. Arguably the largest and most successful criminal enterprise in world history, at times the Medellín drug cartel was smuggling 15 tons of cocaine a day, worth more than half a billion dollars, into the United States. According to Roberto, Pablo's accountant, he and his brother's operation spent $2,500 a month just purchasing rubber bands to wrap the stacks of cash—and since they had more illegal money than they could deposit in the banks, they stored the bricks of cash in their warehouses, annually writing off 10% as "spoilage" when the rats crept in at night and nibbled on the hundred dollar bills.

In 1975, Escobar started developing his cocaine operation. He even flew a plane himself several times, mainly between Colombia and Panama,to smuggle a load into the United States. When he later bought 15 new and bigger airplanes (including a Learjet) and 6 helicopters, he decommissioned the plane and hung it above the gate to his ranch at Hacienda Napoles. His reputation grew after a well known Medellín dealer named Fabio Restrepo was murdered in 1975 ostensibly by Escobar, from whom he had purchased 14 kilograms. Afterwards, all of Restrepo's men were informed that they now worked for Pablo Escobar. Restrepo had tried to kill Pablo, but failed miserably. In May 1976 Escobar and several of his men were arrested and were found in possession of 39 pounds (18 kg) of white paste after returning to Medellín with a heavy load from Ecuador. Initially, Pablo tried unsuccessfully to bribe the Medellín judges who were forming the case against him. Instead, after many months of legal wrangling Pablo had the two arresting officers bribed and the case was dropped. It was here that he began his pattern of dealing with the authorities by either bribing them or killing them. Roberto Escobar maintains Pablo fell into the business simply because contraband became too dangerous to traffic. He could make more money with one truck loaded with cocaine than 40 carrying booze and cigarettes. There were no drug cartels then and only a few drug barons, so there was plenty of business for everyone. In Peru, they bought the cocaine paste, which they refined in a laboratory in a two-story house in Medellín. On his first trip, Pablo bought a paltry £30 worth of paste in what was to become the first step towards the building of his empire. At first, he smuggled the cocaine in old plane tires and a pilot could earn as much as £500,000 a flight depending on how much he could smuggle.

Soon the demand for cocaine was skyrocketing in the United States and Pablo organized more smuggling shipments, routes, and distribution networks in South Florida, California and other parts of the USA. He and Carlos Lehder worked together to develop a new island trans-shipment point in the Bahamas, called Norman's Cay. Carlos and Robert Vesco purchased most of the land on the Island which included a 3,300 foot airstrip, a harbor, hotel, houses, boats, aircraft and even built a refrigerated warehouse to store the cocaine. From 1978–1982, this was used as a central smuggling route for the Medellín Cartel. (According to his brother's account, Pablo did not purchase Normans Cay. It was, instead, a sole venture of Carlos Lehder.) Escobar was able to purchase the 7.7 square miles (20 km2) of land, which included Hacienda Napoles, for several million dollars. He created a zoo, a lake and other diversions for his family and organization. At one point it was estimated that 70 to 80 tons of cocaine were being shipped from Colombia to the U.S. every month. At the peak of his power in the mid-1980s, he was shipping as much as 11 tonnes per flight in jetliners to the United States (the biggest load shipped by Pablo was 23,000 kg mixed with fish paste and shipped via boat, this is confirmed by his brother in the book Escobar). In addition to using the planes, Pablo's brother, Roberto Escobar, said he also used two small remote-controlled submarines as a way to transport the massive loads (these subs were, in fact, manned and this is again documented in Roberto's book).

In 1982, Escobar was elected as a deputy/alternative representative to the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia's Congress, as part of the Colombian Liberal Party. During the 1980s, Escobar became known internationally as his drug network gained notoriety; the Medellín Cartel controlled a large portion of the drugs that entered into the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic with cocaine brought mostly from Peru and Bolivia, as Colombian coca was initially of substandard quality. Escobar's product reached many other nations, mostly around the Americas, although it is said that his network reached as far as Asia.

Corruption and intimidation characterized Escobar's dealings with the Colombian system. He had an effective, inescapable policy in dealing with law enforcement and the government, referred to as "plata o plomo," (literally silver or lead, colloquially [accept] money or [face] bullets). This resulted in the deaths of hundreds of individuals, including civilians, policemen and state officials. At the same time, Escobar bribed countless government officials, judges and other politicians. Escobar was allegedly responsible for the murder of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, one of three assassinated candidates who were all competing in the same election, as well as the bombing of Avianca Flight 203 and the DAS Building bombing in Bogotá in 1989. The Cartel de Medellín was also involved in a deadly drug war with its primary rival, the Cartel de Cali, for most of its existence. It is sometimes alleged that Escobar backed the 1985 storming of the Colombian Supreme Court by left-wing guerrillas from the 19th of April Movement, also known as M-19, which resulted in the murder of half the judges on the court. Some of these claims were included in a late 2006 report by a Truth Commission of three judges of the current Supreme Court. One of those who discusses the attack is "Popeye", a former Escobar hitman. At the time of the siege, the Supreme Court was studying the constitutionality of Colombia's extradition treaty with the U.S. Roberto Escobar stated in his book, that indeed the M-19 were paid to break into the building of the supreme court, and burn all papers and files on Los Extraditables - the group of cocaine smugglers who were under threat of being extradited to the US by their Colombian government. But the plan backfired and hostages were taken for negotiation of their release, so Los Extraditables were not directly responsible for the actions of the M-19.

Height of power

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Pablo Escobar once said that the essence of the cocaine business was "simple - you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back." In 1987 Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be the seventh-richest man in the world with a personal wealth of close to US$25 billion while his Medellín cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market. In most businesses, seeing a return on investment (ROI) of 100% would be more than enough for a company to thrive. By some estimates, Pablo Escobar enjoyed an ROI of as much as 20,000%.[citation needed] In other words, for every $1 invested in the business, he received approximately $200 in return.

While seen as an enemy of the United States and Colombian governments, Escobar was a hero to many in Medellín (especially the poor people); he was a natural at public relations and he worked to create goodwill among the poor people of Colombia. A lifelong sports fan, he was credited with building football fields and multi-sports courts, as well as sponsoring children's football teams.

Escobar was responsible for the construction of many hospitals, schools and churches in western Colombia, which gained him popularity inside the local Roman Catholic Church. He worked hard to cultivate his "Robin Hood" image, and frequently distributed money to the poor through housing projects and other civic activities, which gained him notable popularity among the poor. The population of Medellín often helped Escobar by serving as lookouts, hiding information from the authorities, or doing whatever else they could do to protect him.

Despite his popular image among Medellín's impoverished community Escobar was well-known among his business associates to be a calm and sensible negotiator, that preferred to use money before the gun. Many of the wealthier residents of Medellin also viewed him as a threat. His brother said that Pablo knew that money generated more loyalty than fear, so violence was often unnecessary. At the height of his power, drug traffickers from Medellín and other areas were handing over between 20 and 35% of their Colombian cocaine-related profits to Escobar, because he was the one who shipped the cocaine successfully to the US.

The Colombian cartels continuing struggles to maintain supremacy resulted in Colombia's quickly becoming the world’s murder capital with 25,100 violent deaths in 1991 and 27,100 in 1992. This increased murder rate was fueled by Escobar's giving money to his hitmen as a reward for killing police officers, over 600 of whom died in this way. Today, Colombia is surpassed by several countries, such as Guatemala, South Africa and Venezuela.

Personal life

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In March 1976 at the age of 26, Escobar married Maria Victoria who was 15 years old. Together they had two children: Juan Pablo and Manuela. Escobar created and lived in a luxurious estate called Hacienda Nápoles (Spanish for Naples Estate) and had planned to construct a Greek-style citadel near it. Construction of the citadel was begun but never finished. The ranch, the zoo and the citadel were expropriated by the government and given to low-income families in the 1990s under a law called extinción de dominio (domain extinction). The property has been converted into a theme park.

La Catedral prison


After the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán, a presidential candidate, the administration of César Gaviria moved against Escobar and the drug cartels. Eventually, the government negotiated with Escobar, convincing him to surrender and cease all criminal activity in exchange for a reduced sentence and preferential treatment during his captivity.

After declaring an end to a series of previous violent or terrorist acts meant to pressure authorities and public opinion, Escobar turned himself in. He was confined in what became his own luxurious private prison, La Catedral. Before Escobar gave himself up, the extradition of Colombian citizens had been prohibited by the newly approved Colombian Constitution of 1991. That was controversial, as it was suspected that Escobar or other drug lords had influenced members of the Constituent Assembly.

Accounts of Escobar's continued criminal activities began to surface in the media. Escobar brought the Moncada and Galeano brothers to La Catedral and had them murdered because he alleged that they were stealing from the cartel.[citation needed] When the government found out that Escobar was continuing his criminal activities within La Catedral, it attempted to move Escobar to another jail on July 22, 1992. Escobar's influence allowed him to discover the plan in advance and make a well-timed, unhurried escape. He was still worried that he could be extradited to the United States.

Search Bloc and Los Pepes


In 1992 United States Operators from Delta Force, and Centra Spike joined the all-out manhunt for Escobar. They trained and advised a special Colombian police task force, known as the Search Bloc, which had been created to locate Escobar. Later, as the conflict between Escobar and United States and Colombian governments dragged on and the numbers of his enemies grew, a vigilante group known as Los Pepes (Los Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar) - or "People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar," financed by his rivals and former associates, including the Cali Cartel and right-wing paramilitaries led by Carlos Castaño, who would later found the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá. Los Pepes carried out a bloody campaign fueled by vengeance in which more than 300 of Escobar's associates and relatives were slain and large amounts of his cartel's property were destroyed.

Rumors abounded that members of the Search Bloc, and also of Colombian and the United States intelligence agencies, in their efforts to find and punish Escobar, either colluded with Los Pepes or moonlighted as both Search Bloc and Los Pepes simultaneously. This coordination was allegedly conducted mainly through the sharing of intelligence in order to allow Los Pepes to bring down Escobar and his few remaining allies, but there are reports that some individual Search Bloc members directly participated in missions of the Los Pepes death squads. One of the leaders of Los Pepes was Diego Murillo Bejarano (also known as "Don Berna"), a former Medellín Cartel associate who became a drug kingpin and eventually emerged as a leader of one of the most powerful factions within the AUC.

Death and afterward

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Police posing with Escobar's dead body





The war against Escobar ended on December 2, 1993, amid another attempt to elude the Search Bloc. Using radio triangulation technology provided as part of the United States efforts, a Colombian electronic surveillance team, led by Brigadier Hugo Martinez, found him hiding in a middle-class barrio in Medellín. With authorities closing in, a firefight with Escobar and his bodyguard, Alvaro de Jesús Agudelo AKA "El Limón", ensued. The two fugitives attempted to escape by running across the roofs of adjoining houses to reach a back street, but both were shot and killed by Colombian National Police. He suffered gunshots to the leg, torso, and the fatal one in his ear. It has never been proven who actually fired the final shot into Escobar's head, whether this shot was made during the gunfight or as part of possible execution, and there is wide speculation about the subject. One very popular theory is that Hugo Aguilar shot Escobar with just one shot with his 9 mm pistol.[citation needed] Some of the family members believe that Escobar could have committed suicide. His two brothers, Roberto Escobar and Fernando Sánchez Arellano, believe that he shot himself through the ears: "He committed suicide, he did not get killed. During all the years they went after him, he would say to me every day that if he was really cornered without a way out, he would shoot himself through the ears." During the autopsy however, there was no stippling pattern found around the ear, which suggested that the shot which killed Escobar was fired from further than an arm's length away.

After Escobar's death and the fragmentation of the Medellín Cartel the cocaine market soon became dominated by the rival Cali Cartel, until the mid-1990s when its leaders, too, were either killed or captured by the Colombian government.

The Robin Hood image that he had cultivated continued to have lasting influence in Medellín. Many there, especially many of the city's poor that had been aided by him while he was alive, lamented his death.

Exhumation
On 28 October 2006, Escobar's body was exhumed by request of his nephew Nicolás Escobar, two days after the death of mother Hermilda Gaviria (who opposed exhumation) to verify that the body in the tomb was in fact that of Escobar and also to collect DNA for a paternity test claim. According to the report by the El Tiempo newspaper, Escobar's widow Maria Victoria was present recording the exhumation with a video camera.

Virginia Vallejo's version


On July 4, 2006, Virginia Vallejo, the television anchorwoman who was romantically involved with Escobar from 1983 to 1987, offered her testimony in the trial against former Senator Alberto Santofimio, accused of conspiracy in the 1989 assassination of Presidential Candidate Luis Carlos Galán, to the Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguaran. Mr. Iguaran acknowledged that, although Vallejo contacted his office on the 4th, the judge had decided to close the trial on the 9th, several weeks before the prospective closing date and, in (Iguaran's) opinion, “too soon”.

On July 16, 2006, Vallejo was taken to the United States in a special flight of the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the American Embassy in Bogotá, this was done for "safety and security reasons" because Ms. Vallejo’s cooperation was needed in high-profile criminal cases. On July 24, 2006, a video in which Virginia Vallejo accused former Senator Alberto Santofimio of instigating Escobar to eliminate presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán in her presence was aired on Colombian television. In 2007, Vallejo published her book Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar (Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar), where she describes her relationship with the drug lord during the early years of the cocaine boom and his charity projects for the poor when he was a deputy congressman. She gives her account of Escobar’s relationship with Caribbean governments and dictators and his role in the birth of the M.A.S (Death to Kidnappers) and Los Extraditables (The Extraditables). Vallejo also gives her account of numerous incidents throughout Escobar's political and criminal career, such as the assassination of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla in 1984, her lover’s feud with the Cali Cartel and the era of narcoterrorism that began after the couple's farewell in September 1987.

Among Escobar’s biographers, only Virginia Vallejo has given a detailed explanation of his role in the 1985 Palace of Justice siege and the atrocities that took place before, during and after the tragedy. (“Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar”, “Aquel Palacio en llamas”, pages 227-264). The journalist stated that Escobar financed the operation, committed by the rebel M-19 group, but blamed the army for the killings of the Supreme Court Justices and the detained after the coup. In 2008 she was asked to testify in the reopened Palace case, and in 2009 most of the events that she had described in her book and testimonial were confirmed by the Commission of Truth. In 2010 and 2011, a high-ranking former colonel and a former general were sentenced to thirty and thirty-five years in prison for forced disappearance of the detained after the siege.

In August 2009, Virginia Vallejo testified in the case of Luis Carlos Galán's assassination, which had also been reopened. She also accused several politicians, including Colombian presidents Alfonso López Michelsen, Ernesto Samper and Álvaro Uribe of links to the drug cartels. Uribe denied Vallejo's allegations. On June 3, 2010 the journalist was granted political asylum in the United States of America.

Relatives
Escobar's widow, Maria Victoria Henao (now Maria Isabel Santos Caballero), son, Juan Pablo (now Juan Sebastian Marroquín Santos), and daughter, Manuela, fled Colombia in 1995 after failing to find a country that would grant asylum. Argentinian filmmaker Nicolas Entel's documentary Sins of My Father chronicles Marroquín's efforts to seek forgiveness from the sons of Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Colombia's justice minister in the early 1980s, who was assassinated in 1984, as well as the sons of Luis Carlos Galán, the presidential candidate, who was assassinated in 1989. The film was shown at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and premiered in the US on HBO on October 2010.

He is also survived by his godson, Daniel Ray Rodríguez Gacha, the son of Jose Rodríguez Gacha.[citation needed]

The rest of Escobar's family is thought to have migrated to Venezuela, including his aunt Leticia Escobar and her two daughters, one of whom now lives in Texas.[citation needed] Some have fled to the United States.[citation needed]

Quotes

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Some of Pablo Escobar's memorable quotations are:

  • "I prefer to be in a grave in Colombia than in a jail cell in the United States."
  • "I'm a decent man who exports flowers."
  • "All empires are created of blood and fire."
  • "I can replace things, but I could never replace my wife and kids."
  • "Everyone has a price, the important thing is to find out what it is."
  • "There can only be one king."
  • "Sometimes I am God, if I say a man dies, he dies that same day."
  • "There are two hundred million idiots, manipulated by a million intelligent men."


Popular depiction

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Artist Fernando Botero, a native of Antioquia, the same region as Escobar, portrayed Pablo Escobar's death in one of his paintings about the violence in Colombia.



Two major feature films on the Colombian drug lord, Escobar and Killing Pablo, were announced in 2007, around the same time. Escobar has been delayed due to producer Oliver Stone's involvement with the George W. Bush biopic W. The date of Escobar’s release is still unconfirmed. Producer Oliver Stone even said "This is a great project about a fascinating man who took on the system. I think I have to thank Scarface, and maybe even Ari Gold."

Killing Pablo, in development for several years and directed by Joe Carnahan, is based on Mark Bowden’s book Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw. The plot tells the story of how Escobar was killed and his cartel dismantled by US special forces and intelligence, the Colombian military and Los Pepes, controlled by the Cali cartel. The cast was reported to include Christian Bale as Major Steve Jacoby and Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez as Escobar. In December 2008, Bob Yari, producer of Killing Pablo, filed for bankruptcy.

Escobar has been portrayed in several films already. Played by Cliff Curtis, he is depicted in the 2001 biopic Blow. In the HBO television series Entourage, actor Vincent Chase (played by Adrian Grenier) plays Escobar in a fictional film entitled Medellin.

Escobar has also been the subject of several books, including photographer James Mollison's book The Memory of Pablo Escobar, which tells Pablo's story with over 350 photographs and documents. Gabriel García Márquez' book, News of a Kidnapping, details the series of abductions that Escobar masterminded to pressure the then Colombian government into guaranteeing him non-extradition if he turned himself in.

In the 2010 ESPN broadcast 30 for 30, a series of sports-themed documentaries timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Entertainment and Sports Network. The Two Escobars by directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist looked back at Colombia's World Cup run in 1994 and the relationship of sports and the country's criminal gangs—notably the Medellín narcotics cartel run by Escobar. The other Escobar in the film title refers to former Colombian National Team defender Andrés Escobar (no relation to Pablo), who was shot and killed one month after an own goal that cost Colombia in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

Some of the content on this page has been provided by the following page on Wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Escobar


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