Pablo Escobar

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Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria
Born December 1, 1949 (1949-12)
Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia
Died December 2, 1993 (1993-12-03) (aged 44)
Medellín, Colombia
Alias(es) El Patrón, Don Pablo
Conviction(s) Drug trafficking and smuggling, racketeering, money laundering, murder
Status Killed
Occupation Head of the Medellín Cartel
Spouse Maria Victoria Henao
Children Juan Pablo and Manuela Escobar

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, (1 December 1949 - 2 December 1993), gained world infamy as a Colombian drug lord and became so wealthy from the drug trade that in 1989 Forbes magazine listed him as the seventh richest man in the world.[1]


[edit] Early years

Pablo Escobar began his criminal career in Envigado while he was still in school by stealing tombstones and selling them to smugglers from Panama. He also allegedly stole headstones from graveyards and sold them in other villages of the department of Antioquia (this allegation has never been proven).[citation needed] When he was a teenager he began to steal cars from the streets of Medellín. He became involved in other rackets which led him to become a powerful figure in the area. He eventually got into the cocaine business and began building an enormous drug empire during the 1970s, which eventually became known as the Medellín Cartel.

[edit] Gaining notoriety

Medellín Cartel
Pablo Escobar

Juan David Ochoa Vazquez

José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha
Carlos Lehder
Jorge Luis Ochoa Vázquez
Fabio Ochoa Vázquez
José Abello Silva
Gilberto Molina
Dandeny Muñoz Mosquera
See also:
Hacienda Napoles
La Catedral

In 1982, Escobar was elected as a deputy/alternate representative to the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia's Congress, as part of the Colombian Liberal Party.[2]

During the 1980s, Escobar became known internationally as his drug network gained notoriety; El Cartel de Medellín 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.

Escobar bribed countless government officials, judges and other politicians. He often personally executed uncooperative subordinates and routinely had anyone else he viewed as a threat murdered. This resulted in the deaths of hundreds of individuals, including civilians, policemen and state officials. 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," (which in Spanish literally means silver or lead, that is a bribe or a bullet). Escobar was 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.

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.[3] Some former M-19 leaders that did not participate in the events have denied that the druglord was behind the assault on the Supreme Court.

[edit] Height of power

In 1989, at the height of his empire's power, Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be the third-richest man in the world with a personal wealth of close to $25 billion, while his Medellín cartel controlled 80 percent of the global cocaine market.

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

Pablo Escobar was also responsible for the construction of many churches in Medellín, which gained him popularity inside the local Roman Catholic Church.[4] 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.

At the height of his power, drug traffickers from Medellín and other areas were handing over between 20 to 35% of their Colombian cocaine-related profits to Escobar.

[edit] La Catedral prison

After the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán, then a current 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 druglords 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 murdered them, accusing them of stealing from the cartel.[citation needed] When the government found out that Escobar was continuing his criminal activities from La Catedral, it attempted to move Escobar to another jail on July 22, 1992. Escobar escaped, fearing that he could be extradited to the United States.

[edit] Search Bloc and Los Pepes

Colombian policemen posing by Pablo Escobar's dead body. Mark Bowden's book cover.

In 1992 United States Delta Force operators (and later Navy SEALs from SEAL Team Six) 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 - People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar), financed by the Cali Cartel and Carlos Castaño (among others), carried out a bloody campaign fueled by thirst for vengeance in which more than 300 of Escobar's associates and relatives were slain and large amounts of his cartel's property were destroyed.

Some observers[4] claim 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.[4] This brings into question the role the United States played in gathering intelligence on Escobar's organization, because some of this information was later used by the Los Pepes organization in its crusade of retributive executions.[4] 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.

[edit] Personal life

In March 1976 at the age of 26, Escobar married Maria Victoria when she was 15 years old. Together they had two children: Juan Pablo and Manuela. Escobar was known to have affairs. Pablo Escobar created and lived in a luxurious estate called Hacienda Napoles (Spanish for Naples Ranch) and had planned to construct a Greek-style citadel near it. Construction of the citadel was started but was 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 is currently being converted to a theme park.[1]

[edit] Relatives

The eldest son of Pablo Escobar, Juan Pablo, has lived in Argentina since 1995 and has changed his name to Sebastián Marroquín. In August 2008, the family of slain presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán revealed that Marroquín had sent them a letter in which he apologized for his father's involvement in the 1989 murder.[5]

The rest of Escobar's family is thought to have migrated to Venezuela. Some have fled to the U.S.A.

[edit] Death and afterward

Colombian policemen standing by Pablo Escobar's dead body.

The war against Escobar ended on December 2, 1993, as he tried to elude the Search Bloc one more time. Using radio triangulation technology provided as part of the United States efforts, a Colombian electronic surveillance team found him hiding in a middle-class barrio in Medellín.

The shootout between Escobar and the Search Bloc personnel ensued after the house was located. How Escobar was killed during the confrontation has been debated but it is known that he was cornered on the rooftops of Medellín and after a prolonged gunfight, 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] His 2 brothers, Roberto Escobar and Fernando Sanchez 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 and he shot himself through the ears."[6] During the autopsy however, there was no stippling pattern found around the ear proving that Pablo Escobar's fatal wound to the head was shot no less than arms length.[7]

After Escobar's death, the Medellín Cartel fragmented and 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 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.

[edit] 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 ex-wife Maria Victoria was present recording the exhumation with a video camera. Some of the family members believe that Escobar could have committed suicide.[8][9]

[edit] Virginia Vallejo's version

On July 4th 2006, Virginia Vallejo, the television anchorwoman who was romantically involved with Pablo Escobar from 1983 to 1987, offered her testimony in the trial against former senator and Justice Minister Alberto Santofimio, accused of conspiracy in the 1989 assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan. The Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguaran acknowledged that, although Vallejo had 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 his concept, “too soon”. [10]

On July 16th 2006, “for safety and security reasons” according to the American Embassy in Bogota, Virginia Vallejo was taken to Miami, Florida, in a special flight of the Drug Enforcement Administration. [11], [12] On July 24th, a video that she had taped before her departure was watched by 14 million people.

In October 2007, Santofimio was convicted and sentenced to 24 years, but in October 2008 he was acquitted for insufficient evidence or the principle of reasonable doubt.

In 2007, Vallejo published her memoir Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar (Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar 2010), in which she describes her stormy relationship with the druglord, his links to the several Caribbean dictators and heads of state, including Colombian presidents Alfonso López Michelsen, Ernesto Samper and Álvaro Uribe, and his role in several historic tragedies like the Palace of Justice siege in 1985. President Uribe denied Vallejo's allegations.[13] [14] On July 11th 2008, Virginia Vallejo testified in the reopened case of the 1985 Palace of Justice siege and confirmed that Escobar had financed the coup, [15] but the military had set the Palace on fire, killed the Supreme Court Justices and tortured and disappeared the detained. [16]

[edit] In popular culture

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.

Escobar is depicted in the 2001 drama film Blow in which Escobar, played by Cliff Curtis, becomes a business contact of the main character George Jung. The movie highlights George Jung's role in smuggling Escobar's cocaine into the U.S and selling it for enormous profit.

Escobar is mentioned as 'Uncle Escobar' in the 2000 comedy Scary Movie.

Photographer James Mollison's book The Memory of Pablo Escobar tells Pablo's story with over 350 photographs and documents. The journalist Rainbow Nelson conducted over 100 interviews with family members, Medellin Cartel associates, Colombian police & judges, and survivors of Escobar's killing sprees.

Escobar is depicted in the 2006 documentary film Cocaine Cowboys.

The 2007 film Pablo of Medellín by Jorge Granier-Phelps explores the mixed legacy of a man hailed in the Barrio as a saint while despised elsewhere as a demon.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez' 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.

Escobar is also the subject of an episode in a documentary series called Situation Critical, in production as of September 2007.

In his brother's biography, "The Accountant's story: Inside the Violent World of the Medellín Cartel", Roberto Escobar and David Fisher disclose Pablo's love for US singer Elvis Presley, and his music, at certain points even calling himself the "Elvis of Colombia"[citation needed], ostensibly as a result of his huge popularity with people.[citation needed]. Recently, Roberto Escobar also claimed that he had found a cure for AIDS. [17]

[edit] Popular depiction

Recent interest in Pablo Escobar is credited to the fictional film, Medellín, from the HBO series Entourage. 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."[18]

Two major feature films on the Colombian drug lord, Escobar and Killing Pablo, were announced in 2007.[19] Both films were announced around the same time, but Escobar has been delayed due to Stone's involvement with the George W. Bush Biopic, W.[20] In December 2008, Bob Yari, the producer of "Escobar", filed for bankruptcy. [21]

Killing Pablo is to be directed by Joe Carnahan, based on the book Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden, the true story of the death of Pablo Escobar. The film was in development for several years and is currently in production as of early 2009.[22][23] The plot claims to tell the true story of how the Colombian gangster and terrorist Pablo Escobar was assassinated and his Medellín cocaine cartel dismantled by US special forces and intelligence, the Colombian military, and a vigilante gang controlled by the Cali cartel. The cast was reported to include Christian Bale as Major Steve Jacoby and Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez as Escobar. [24] [25]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Pablo Escobar (1949 - 1993)
  2. ^ "Así conocí a Pablo Escobar". Revista Semana. May 12, 2007.
  3. ^ El Pais - Cali Colombia nacional “Pablo Escobar financió la toma del Palacio de Justicia” “Escobar financió toma del Palacio de Justicia”
  4. ^ a b c d Mark: The Hunt For The World's Greatest Outlaw." Atlantic Monthly Press, New York 2001
  5. ^ "El hijo de Pablo Escobar pidió perdón en nombre de su padre". La Nación. August 18, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-23. 
  6. ^ Zero Hour: Killing of the Cocaine King (documentary)
  7. ^ Kenneth Roberts
  8. ^ (Spanish) EL TIEMPO - Pablo Escobar's body exhumed
  9. ^ Video of Escobar's exhumation (Spanish)
  10. ^ Colombian Attorney General on Virginia Vallejo’s offer to testify against Santofimio
  11. ^ DEA special flight takes Escobar’s former lover to Miami
  12. ^ Pablo Escobar's Ex-Lover Flees Colombia
  13. ^ Romero, Simon (October 3, 2007). "Colombian Leader Disputes Claim of Tie to Cocaine Kingpin". New York Times. pp. 1. 
  14. ^ Relea, Francesc (October 17, 2007). "‘That Blessed Lad’: Why Drug Lord Pablo Escobar Idolised the Colombian President". Znet. pp. 1. 
  15. ^ Virginia Vallejo’s interview in Caracol radio
  16. ^ Virginia Vallejo, Ahora Testigo En Caso Del Palacio
  17. ^ Roberto Escobar also claimed he has found the cure for aids
  18. ^ Michael Fleming (October 8, 2007) Stone to produce another 'Escobar' Variety. Accessed November 28, 2007.
  19. ^ Sparring Partners Tribeca Film Festival. Accessed November 28, 2007
  20. ^ No Bardem for KILLING PALBO Obsessed With Film. Accessed August 14, 2008
  21. ^ Escobar's producer files for bankruptcy
  22. ^ What is actor Christian Bale doing next? Accessed January 17, 2009.
  23. ^ Dave McNary (October 1, 2007) Yari fast-tracking Escobar biopic Variety. Accessed November 29, 2007.
  24. ^ Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez to Play PABLO ESCOBAR
  25. ^ Devin Faraci (August 14, 2008) CARNAHAN IS GOING TO BE KILLING A NEW PABLO, AND WE KNOW WHO IT IS []. Accessed August 14, 2008.

[edit] External links

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