Criminal career of Pablo Escobar

Notable because: Most famous of all Cocaine dealers, who made incredible wealth and became notorious for his killing ways. Escobar gained world infamy as a Colombian drug lord. Escobar became so wealthy from the drug trade that in 1989 Forbes magazine listed him as the seventh richest man in the world. He is considered to be the most ambitious and powerful drug lord in history. His brutal ruthlessness was also legendary; he would kill anyone who stood in his way and was responsible for the killing of 30 judges, 457 policemen, and other deaths at a rate of 20 each day for two months. In total it is said he is directly responsible for the deaths of over 4,000 people.

Pablo Escobar began his criminal career while he was still in school by stealing tombstones and selling them to smugglers from Panama. 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 powerful figures in the area. He also allegedly stole headstones from graveyards and sold them in other villages of the department of Antioquia (this allegation has never been proven). He eventually moved into the cocaine business and began building an enormous drug empire during the 1970s, which eventually became known as the Medellín Cartel.

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.

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). This term referred to a bribee’s option of either taking the bribe or facing death at the hands of the Medellín Cartel. 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 has been claimed that Escobar was behind 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 the included claims was made by “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. Former M-19 leaders that did not participate in the events have denied that the druglord was behind the assault on the Supreme Court.

In 1989, at the height of his empire’s power, Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be the seventh-richest man in the world; the Medellín cartel was taking in up to $30 billion annually and 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.

Pablo Escobar was also responsible for the construction of many churches in Medellín, 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.

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.

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. 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 (or more accurately walked out), fearing that he could be extradited to the United States.

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 claim that members of the Search Bloc, and also of Colombian and 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. 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. 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. Some have speculated that Murillo would have admitted to his organizations’ potential connections to the U.S. if it were not for some unforeseen circumstances.

In March 1976 at the age of 27, 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, and as time went on he increasingly preferred teen and underage girls 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.

One of Escobar’s surviving relatives is his cousin José Obdulio Gaviria. Former member of the political movement Firmes, which supported the 1982 presidential aspiration of leftwing politician Gerardo Molina, José Obdulio Gaviria became politically close to Álvaro Uribe, within the Colombian Liberal Party in Antioquia. Two of Gaviria’s brothers were detained in the U.S. during 1983 on drug-related charges. After Uribe’s election in 2002, Gaviria became one of his presidential advisors and has been said to be his “ideologue”, often defending Uribe’s government before the media. According to La Otra Verdad journalist Julio César García Vásquez, Escobar’s and Uribe’s families are genealogically related, sharing a distant ancestor.

Colombian policemen standing by Pablo Escobar’s dead body on roof.

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. His brother, Roberto Escobar, believes 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.”

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, as many there, especially many of the city’s poor that had been aided by him while he was alive, lamented his death.

On October 28, 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.

In 2006, Virginia Vallejo, the television anchorwoman who was romantically involved with Pablo Escobar from 1983 to 1987, accused senator Alberto Santofimio of instigating Escobar to eliminate his rival, senator Luis Carlos Galan, in her presence and at least on three occasions between 1983 and 1985. In 2007, Vallejo published her memoir Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar, where she described the relationship of the Medellin and Cali cocaine cartels with Presidents Alfonso López Michelsen, Ernesto Samper and Álvaro Uribe, who headed the Colombian Civil Aviation Agency from 1980 to 1982. President Uribe denied Vallejo’s allegations.

On July 11th 2008, Vallejo testified in the reopened case of the 1985 siege of the Palace of Justice and confirmed that Escobar had financed the coup. She accused Military Intelligence of setting the Palace on fire to eliminate 1800 files of human rights violations, of the murder of the Supreme Court Justices and the torture and forced disappearance of sixteen innocent people detained after the siege.

Escobar is a film based on the life of Pablo Escobar, starring Edgar Ramirez and directed by Antoine Fuqua. Expected to be released in late 2008 or early 2009

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.
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.
The hunt for Escobar was documented in Mark Bowden’s book Killing Pablo. A TV movie based on the book was titled The True Story of Killing Pablo,. It often plays on The History Channel. A motion picture based on this book is scheduled for release sometime in 2009.
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.
The plot and characters of the Tom Clancy novel Clear and Present Danger (and subsequent motion picture of the same name) are similar, featuring a Colombian drug lord named “Ernesto Escobedo”.
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.
Riley Freeman, a character in The Boondocks comic strip uses the nickname “Esco”, after Pablo Escobar. He has also instructed other characters in the strip to refer to him as “Mr. Escobar.”.
In the video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”, the airport is named Escobar International Airport.
In the HBO series Entourage, the main character Vincent Chase plays the lead role in “Medellín”, a film about the life story of Pablo Escobar.
In 1994 after Pablo Escobar’s death, the death metal band Brujeria (band) released a single named “El patrón”, after Escobar’s nickname.
Rapper Nasir Jones, better known as Nas, took the nickname “Nas Escobar” when drug-dealer culture became more and more relevant within rapping. He used it most primarily while a member of his supergroup The Firm. Since then, he is sometimes referred to as “Esco”, “Nas Escobar”, etc. He also says in Got Yourself a Gun ” I’m the N the A the S-I-R / and if I wasn’t I musta been escobar”.
In Rick Ross’ first hit single “Hustlin,” there are numerous references to Pablo Escobar (“I know Pablo, Noreaga – the real Noriega he owe me a hundred favors”).
In the film Traffic, Catherine Zeta Jones’ character says her recently jailed husband is being compared to Pablo Escobar.
The Latin musical group, Los Tigres del Norte, wrote a song about Pablo Escobar, and his donations to the poor.
The Serbian rock band Deca Losih Muzicara recorded a song lamenting the death of Don Pablo Escobar.
The hardcore punk band Underminded has a song on their first full length titled “Pablo Escobar’s Secret Stash.”
Escobar is also the subject of an episode in a documentary series called Situation Critical, in production as of September 2007.
In the television show Nip/Tuck, the recurring enemy drug trafficker who smuggles drugs into Miami, Florida by transporting them in the breasts of young women who are promised a career in modeling, is named Escobar.
In the movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the titular characters meet in Hollywood a crack dealer named Pumpkin Escobar.
In the 2000 film, Scary Movie, the lead character Cindy speaks by phone with her dad about if he’s doing business with “Uncle Escobar”. In the movie, it is revealed that Cindy’s father deals with freebase.
In Chris Ryans book ‘Stand by, Stand by’ Escobar is mentioned as the notorious drug baron and what he has done to stop anyone that gets in his way, the men who are being briefed are warned to stay clear of anyone in the Medellín cartel.
Rapper The Game raps in his song “Money” from “L.A.X.”, “That Pablo Escobar crack money.”
Escobar is scheduled to be a 2008 film directed by Antoine Fuqua, based on the book Mi Hermano Pablo by Roberto Escobar, the true story of drug lord Pablo Escobar. The film is being produced by Oliver Stone and distributed by Justin Berfield’s J2 Pictures. Escobar will star Edgar Ramirez in the title role. Filming will take place on location in Colombia and Puerto Rico. Filming is expected to commence in January 2008. The film is currently scheduled to be released on November 30, 2008.

Escobar is in direct competition with another Pablo Escobar biopic, Killing Pablo. 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.

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.”Also the movie “Blow”, starring Johnny Depp, features Escobar.

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 has been in development for several years and is set to begin production in early 2008. 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 Javier Bardem as Escobar