On December 2, 1993, Pablo Escobar fled barefoot across the rooftops of Los Olivos, a neighborhood in Medellín, Colombia. He was accompanied by his bodyguard, Álvaro de Jesús Agudelo, known as “El Limón”, and around five hundred police officers surrounded them. Escobar had been wanted for a year and a half because he had escaped from the Catedral, the private prison he had built after a compromise with the Colombian government to surrender: prison is actually a misnomer, actually. Inside there was a soccer field, a bar, a waterfall and a hot tub, among others. While he was trying to escape, on December 2, thirty years ago, there was a shootout with police officers. Escobar was shot in the head and died.
He was then 44 years old and had had time to become one of the most feared, powerful, sought-after and, above all, richest drug traffickers in the world. It is precisely in Medellín that Escobar built his criminal and economic empire, even today souvenirs are sold in the city and tourist circuits are organized to visit the places of its history: the house of the Escobar family, his tomb, Catedral Prison. Over the years, Escobar’s criminal cartel has built and transformed the city’s urban landscape – there is even a neighborhood informally named after him – and has also gained some support in local communities by money laundering. huge sums of money in public works and housing for poor families. This is also why Escobar was called “Robin Hood”.
But Escobar’s best-known and most apt nickname is the “Cocaine King”: at the time of his death, he was estimated to have amassed a fortune of over $30 billion through drug trafficking. . The Medellín Cartel he founded included dozens of thousands of people engaged in a vast network of criminal activity that stretches from South America to the United States and Europe. It was precisely this cartel that consolidated and expanded the cocaine trafficking routes between Colombia and the United States, of which it had essentially obtained a monopoly between the 1980s and 1990s.
Until the sixties Colombia had retained a rather marginal role in international cocaine trafficking, managed mainly by Argentina, Brazil and Chile. During these years, cocaine arrived in the United States primarily in small quantities, smuggled in small boats or fishing boats or slipped into suitcase covers. on commercial flights.
Things changed with Escobar: already in 1975, Colombia was exporting around 4 tons of cocaine per year to the United States. In 1978, Escobar associate Carlos Lehder purchased property on Norman’s Cay, a small island in the Bahamas, which later became a key hub for refueling cocaine-laden flights to the United States . Haiti, Panama and Mexico also became part of the Medellín cartel route. In the 1980s, at the height of its activity, the cartel supplied about 80 percent of the cocaine on the world market, and Escobar had become one of the richest men in the world.
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was born on December 1, 1949 in Rionegro, Colombia, into a very large family: his father was a small farmer, his mother a teacher and he had six brothers and sisters. He grew up poor in Medellín. In 1966, he left school and began cigarette smuggling and committing other petty crimes, which brought him his first money. Years later, he enrolled in college, but never finished. His early criminal activities mainly involved car thefts and kidnappings for ransom, then drug trafficking.
Escobar managed to consolidate his power through fairly simple methods. P.lata or plomosilver or lead, is an example in this sense, made famous worldwide by the Netflix series Narcos, which tells the story of Escobar’s life and the development of his criminal activity. In practice, cartel members offered bribes to officials, politicians, and law enforcement to bribe them into controlling the fight against crime, and if they refused, they were killed. Another method was to limit competition from rival gangs through extreme violence and cruelty: murders, car bombings massacres and kidnappings.
Over the years, Escobar and the Medellín Cartel also gained some political influence, extending their network of corruption to several politicians and government officials to be able to continue their criminal activities in complete peace. In the 1982 Colombian parliamentary elections, Escobar was elected as a deputy for the Liberal Party, a center-left Colombian party, and during this period he gained much popularity and consensus. building social housing, distributing money in the slums of Medellín and campaigning with the region’s Catholic priests. His political career did not last long, however, and ended a few years later with his arrest.
The deal with the government that led to his surrender was reached in 1991, after lengthy negotiations: Escobar agreed to spend a few years in detention in exchange for the government’s commitment not to extradite him to the United States. United. The priest Rafael Garcia Herreros who had very close relations with Escobar, served as an intermediary.