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Pablo Escobar
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, 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, and Mayo Gutierrez

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


Early years

Escobar was born to a poor farmer and a school teacher, Hemilda Gaviria.[2] He and his brother, Roberto Escobar, were so poor that once Pablo was sent home from school because he had no shoes. Roberto said: "Our poverty made an impression on our lives that neither my brother nor I ever forgot . In those early days, it was almost impossible to believe that one day Pablo would rule the city and make it known throughout the world as the home of the Medellin drug cartel."[3] Escobar studied political science at the Universidad de Antioquia, but he was forced to drop out when he couldn't afford to pay the necessary fees. This was when he began his criminal career allegedly stealing gravestones and sanding them down for resale. His brother 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.[4]

Pablo was very well educated, but his vocation lay in crime, and his first step on the ladder was to work for the multi-millionaire contraband smuggler Alvaro Prieto. Through his dedication and guile, Pablo became a millionaire by the time he was 22. [5]

Escobar developed his use of the bribe to further his criminal enterprise. In 1975, Escobar started developing his cocaine operation. He even flew a plane himself to smuggle a load into the United States. He then decommissioned the plane and hung it above the gate to his ranch at Hacienda Napoles. 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 Medellin Cartel. Escobar was able to purchase the 7.7 square miles of land, which included Hacienda Napoles, for several million dollars. He created a zoo, a lake and other diversions for his family and organization.[6]

Rise to Power

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.[7]

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.

Escobar bribed countless government officials, judges and other politicians. 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," (literally silver or lead, colloquially [accept] money or [face] bullets). 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. 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.[8]

Height of power

In 1989 Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be the seventh-richest man in the world with a personal wealth of close to $25 billion, while his Medellín cartel controlled 80% 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 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 little league football teams.[9]

Escobar was also responsible for the construction of many churches in Medellín, which gained him popularity inside the local Roman Catholic Church.[10] 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 the Medellín community Escobar was well-known among his business associates to be an insecure, paranoid, ruthless murderer. His brother was reported saying that Pablo was so violently committed to loyalty that he once threatened him at gun point over a minor misunderstanding. His brother said his ability to befriend the dangerous and intimidate the powerful is what made him as unstoppable as he was. 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.

Escobar’s continuing struggles to maintain supremacy resulted in Colombia's quickly becoming the world’s murder capital with 7,081 victims in 1991 alone.[citation needed] This increased murder rate was fueled by Escobar's giving money to poor youths as a reward for killing police officers, over 600 of whom died in this way.[11]

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 throughout his life, with a penchant for girls aged between 14–17 years old who would often visit his ranches and even the secure prison La Catedral. 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 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 to a theme park.[12]

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 still worried that he could be extradited to the United States.

Search Bloc and Los Pepes

In 1992 United States 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) - 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[10] 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.[10] 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

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.

On December 2, 1993, Escobar's exact location was determined using electronic directional-finding equipment. 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.[13] 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] His two 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."[14] During the autopsy however, there was no stippling pattern found around the ear, which proved that the shot which killed Escobar was fired from further than an arm's length away.[15]

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.


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.[16][17]

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 Galan, 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”.[18]

On July 16, 2006, Vallejo was taken to the United States in a special flight of the Drug Enforcement Administration.[19] 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.[20] On July 24, 2006, a video in which Virginia Vallejo accused former Senator Alberto Santofimio of instigating Escobar to eliminate presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan 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 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 separation in September 1987.

In July 2008, Vallejo testified in the reopened case of the Palace of Justice siege [21] and she stated that Escobar had financed the coup. In August 2009, she testified in the case of Luis Carlos Galan's assassination, which had also been reopened [22]. Vallejo also claimed that several politicians, including Colombian presidents Alfonso López Michelsen, Ernesto Samper and Álvaro Uribe, were involved with the drug cartels in different ways. Uribe denied Vallejo's allegations.[23]


Escobar's widow, Victoria Henao Vallejos (now Maria Isabel Santos Caballero), son, Juan Pablo (now Juan Sebastian Marroquin Santos), and daughter, Manuela, fled Colombia in 1995 after failing to find a country that would grant asylum.[24] Argentinian filmmaker Nicolas Entel's documentary "Sins of My Father" chronicles Marroquin'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 Galan, a presidential candidate, who was assassinated in 1989.[25]

He is also survived by his godson, Daniel Ray Rodriguez Gacha, the son of Jose Rodriguez Gacha.

The rest of Escobar's family is thought to have migrated to Venezuela, including his aunt Leticia Escobar and her 2 daughters, one of which now lives in Texas.[citation needed] Some have fled to the United States. Homero Garfias, Pablo's first cousin, once resided in Carpentersville.[citation needed]


Some of Pablo Escobar's quotations are[26][27]:

  • "I am 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

Recent interest in Escobar led to the fictional film, Medellín, from the HBO series Entourage.

Two major feature films on the Colombian drug lord, Escobar and Killing Pablo, were announced in 2007,[28] around the same time. Escobar has been delayed due to Stone's involvement with the George W. Bush biopic W. The date of Escobar’s release is still unconfirmed.[29] 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."[30]

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.[31][32] The plot tells the true story of how the Colombian gangster Pablo Escobar was killed and his Medellín cocaine cartel dismantled by US special forces and intelligence, the Colombian military, and a vigilante gang called 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.[33][34] In December 2008, Bob Yari, producer of Killing Pablo, filed for bankruptcy.[35]

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 becomes a business contact of the main character George Jung. The movie highlights George Jung's role in Escobar's early cocaine smuggling operation.
  • 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 mentioned as a cartel leader in the 2006 documentary film Cocaine Cowboys.
  • Gabriel García Márquez' book, News of a Kidnapping,[36] 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.
  • Colombian writer Laura Restrepo uses Escobar as a character to move part of the plot in Delirio.
  • Rapper Nas called himself Nas Escobar.
  • Argentine rock and roll band Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota made a song about Escobar's death called "Me matan Limón" ("They kill me Limón") which is based upon the last days of the drug lord and his only loyal bodyguard Álvaro de Jesús Agudelo known as "El Limón" (The Lemon). Limon was killed while fleeing police with Escobar, giving his life to protect him.
  • Escobar is compared to Attila the Hun in episode 2 of the History Channel program Ancients Behaving Badly.

See also


  1. ^ "Life and Death of Pablo Escobar - Synopsis of Killing Pablo (2001) by Mark Bowden". Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  2. ^ "Pablo Escobar by Marcela Grajales". Accents Magazine, Kean University. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  3. ^ "Amazing Story of How Pablo Escobar Came to be the Richest Crook in History, by Peter Webster". Drug Text Internet Library. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  4. ^ "Escobar Seventh Richest Man in the World in 1989". Richest Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Frontline: The Godfather of Cocaine
  7. ^ "Así conocí a Pablo Escobar". Revista Semana. May 12, 2007.
  8. ^ El Pais - Cali Colombia nacional “Pablo Escobar financió la toma del Palacio de Justicia” “Escobar financió toma del Palacio de Justicia”
  9. ^ Escobar, Roberto (2009). The Accountant's Story: Inside the Violent World of the Medellín Cartel. Grand Central Publishing. 
  10. ^ a b c Mark: The Hunt For The World's Greatest Outlaw." Atlantic Monthly Press, New York 2001
  11. ^ Karl Penhaul (05-09-2003). "Drug kingpin's killer seeks Colombia office". Boston Globe. 
  12. ^ BBC News: At Home on Pablo Escobar's Ranch, by Mike Ceaser Retrieved on 2010-02-13
  13. ^ "Decline of the Medellin Cartel and the Rise of the Cali Mafia". U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  14. ^ Zero Hour: Killing of the Cocaine King (documentary)
  15. ^ Kenneth Roberts
  16. ^ (Spanish) EL TIEMPO - Pablo Escobar's body exhumed
  17. ^ Video of Escobar's exhumation (Spanish)
  18. ^ Colombian Attorney General on Virginia Vallejo’s offer to testify against Santofimio
  19. ^ DEA special flight takes Escobar’s former lover to Miami
  20. ^ Pablo Escobar's Ex-Lover Flees Colombia
  21. ^ Virginia Vallejo, Ahora Testigo En Caso Del Palacio
  22. ^ Galan Slaying a “State Crime”, Colombian Prosecutors say
  23. ^ Romero, Simon (October 3, 2007). "Colombian Leader Disputes Claim of Tie to Cocaine Kingpin". New York Times. pp. 1. 
  24. ^ BBC News: Drug lord's wife and son arrested Retrieved on 2010-02-13
  25. ^ CNN Connect the World: Drug lord's son seeks forgiveness Retrieved on 2010-02-13
  26. ^ "2 December 1993 letter from Pablo Escobar to Carlos Ledher". Forum at Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  27. ^ "A talk with Colombian journalist Elizabeth Mora-Mass, by Juliet Paez Parada". New York University. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  28. ^ Sparring Partners Tribeca Film Festival. Accessed November 28, 2007
  29. ^ No Bardem for KILLING PABLO Obsessed With Film. Accessed August 14, 2008
  30. ^ Michael Fleming (October 8, 2007) Stone to produce another 'Escobar' Variety. Accessed November 28, 2007.
  31. ^ What is actor Christian Bale doing next? Accessed January 17, 2009.
  32. ^ Dave McNary (October 1, 2007) Yari fast-tracking Escobar biopic Variety. Accessed November 29, 2007.
  33. ^ Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez to Play PABLO ESCOBAR
  34. ^ Devin Faraci (August 14, 2008) CARNAHAN IS GOING TO BE KILLING A NEW PABLO, AND WE KNOW WHO IT IS []. Accessed August 14, 2008.
  35. ^ Escobar's producer files for bankruptcy
  36. ^ Gabriel García Márquez (English paperback translation, 1998). News of a Kidnapping. Penguin. pp. 304. 

External links

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