1949-12-01 to 1993-12-02
Rionegro, Medellín, ColombiaPablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria (1 December 1949 – 2 December 1993) was a Colombian drug lord and narco terrorist who founded and was the sole leader of the Medellín Cartel. Dubbed "The King of Cocaine", Escobar is the wealthiest criminal in history, having amassed an estimated net worth of US$30 billion by the time of his death equivalent to $58 billion as of 2018 while his drug cartel monopolized the cocaine trade into the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was born on 1 December 1949, in Rionegro, in the Antioquia Department of Colombia. He was the third of seven children of the farmer Abel de Jesús Dari Escobar Echeverri (1910–2001), with his wife Hilda de Los Dolores Gaviria Berrío, an elementary school teacher.
Raised in the nearby city of Medellín, Escobar is thought to have begun his criminal career as a teenager, allegedly stealing gravestones and sanding them down for resale to local smugglers. His brother, Roberto Escobar, denies this, instead claiming that the gravestones came from cemetery owners whose clients had stopped paying for site care and that he had a relative who had a monuments business. Escobar's son, Sebastián Marroquín, claims his father's foray into crime began with a successful practice of selling counterfeit high school diplomas, generally counterfeiting those awarded by the Universidad Autónoma Latinoamericana of Medellín. Escobar studied at the University for a short period, but left without obtaining a degree.
Roberto Escobar maintains Pablo fell into the drug business simply because other types of contraband became too dangerous to traffic. As there were no drug cartels then, and only a few drug barons, Pablo saw it as untapped territory he wished to make his own. In Peru, Pablo would buy the cocaine paste, which would then be refined in a laboratory in a two-story house in Medellín. On his first trip, Pablo bought a paltry 30 pounds (14 kg) of paste in what was noted as the first step towards building his empire. At first, he smuggled the cocaine in old plane tires, and a pilot could return as much as US$500,000 per flight, dependent on the quantity smuggled.
In The Accountant's Story, Roberto Escobar discusses how Pablo rose from middle-class simplicity and obscurity to one of the world's wealthiest men. Beginning in 1975, Pablo started developing his cocaine operation, flying out planes several times, mainly between Colombia and Panama, along smuggling routes into the United States. When he later bought fifteen bigger airplanes, including a Learjet and six helicopters, according to his son, a dear friend of Pablo's died during the landing of an airplane, and the plane was destroyed. Pablo reconstructed the airplane from the scrap parts that were left and later hung it above the gate to his ranch at Hacienda Nápoles.
In March 1976, the 26-year-old Escobar married María Victoria Henao, who was 15. The relationship was discouraged by the Henao family, who considered Escobar socially inferior; the pair eloped. They had two children: Juan Pablo (now Sebastián Marroquín) and Manuela.
In May 1976, Escobar and several of his men were arrested and found in possession of 39 pounds (18 kg) of white paste, attempting to return to Medellín with a heavy load from Ecuador. Initially, Pablo tried to bribe the Medellín judges who were forming a case against him and was unsuccessful. After many months of legal wrangling, he ordered the murder of the two arresting officers, and the case was later dropped. Roberto Escobar details this as the point where Pablo began his pattern of dealing with the authorities, by either bribery or murder.
Soon, the demand for cocaine was greatly increased in the United States, and Escobar organized more smuggling shipments, routes, and distribution networks in South Florida, California, and other parts of the country. He and cartel co-founder Carlos Lehder worked together to develop a new trans-shipment point in the Bahamas, an island called Norman's Cay about 220 miles (350 km) southeast of Florida coast. According to his brother, Escobar did not purchase Norman's Cay; it was, instead, a sole venture of Lehder's. Escobar and Robert Vesco purchased most of the land on the island, which included a 1 kilometer (3,300 ft) airstrip, a harbor, a hotel, houses, boats, and aircraft, and they built a refrigerated warehouse to store the cocaine. From 1978 to 1982, this was used as a central smuggling route for the Medellín Cartel.
Escobar quickly became known internationally as his drug network gained notoriety; the Medellín Cartel controlled a large portion of the drugs that entered the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Spain. The production process was also altered, with coca from Bolivia and Peru replacing the coca from Colombia, which was beginning to be seen as substandard quality than the coca from the neighboring countries. As demand for more and better cocaine increased, Escobar began working with Roberto Suárez Goméz, helping to further the product to other countries in the Americas and Europe, as well as being rumored to reach as far as Asia.
With the enormous profits generated by this route, Escobar was soon able to purchase 7.7 square miles (20 km2) of land in Antioquia for several million dollars, on which he built the Hacienda Nápoles. The luxury house he created contained a zoo, a lake, a sculpture garden, a private bullring, and other diversions for his family and the cartel.
In 1982 Escobar was elected as an alternate member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia, as part of a small movement called Liberal Alternative. Earlier in the campaign, he was a candidate for the Liberal Renewal Movement but had to leave it because of the firm opposition of Luis Carlos Galán, whose presidential campaign was supported by the Liberal Renewal Movement. Escobar was the official representative of the Colombian government for the swearing-in of Felipe González in Spain.
It is 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. The siege, a retaliation motivated by the Supreme Court studying the constitutionality of Colombia's extradition treaty with the U.S., resulted in the murders of half the judges on the court. M-19 was paid to break into the Palace and burn all papers and files on Los Extraditables, a group of cocaine smugglers who were under threat of being extradited to the U.S. by the Colombian government. Escobar was listed as a part of Los Extraditables. Hostages were also taken for negotiation of their release, thus helping to prevent the extradition of Los Extraditables to the U.S. for their crimes.
During the height of its operations, the Medellín Cartel brought in more than US$70 million per day (roughly $26 billion in a year). Smuggling 15 tons of cocaine per day, worth more than half a billion dollars, into the United States, the cartel spent over US$1,000 per week purchasing rubber bands to wrap the stacks of cash, storing most of it in their warehouses. Ten percent (10%) of the cash had to be written off per year because of "spoilage", due to rats creeping in and nibbling on the bills they could reach.
When questioned about the essence of the cocaine business, Escobar replied with "the business is simple: you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back." In 1989, Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be one of 227 billionaires in the world with a personal net worth of approaching US$3 billion while his Medellín Cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market. It is commonly believed that Escobar was the principal financier behind Medellín's Atlético Nacional, which won South America's most prestigious football tournament, the Copa Libertadores, in 1989.
The Colombian cartels' continuing struggles to maintain supremacy resulted in Colombia 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 as a result.
Following Escobar's escape, the United States Joint Special Operations Command and Centra Spike joined the 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 the governments of the United States and Colombia dragged on, and as the numbers of Escobar's enemies grew, a vigilante group known as Los Pepes (Los Perseguidos for Pablo Escobar, "People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar") was formed. The group was financed by his rivals and former associates, including the Cali Cartel and right-wing paramilitaries led by Carlos Castañ, Los Pepes carried out a bloody campaign, fueled by vengeance, in which more than 300 of Escobar's associates, his lawyer and relatives were slain, and a large amount of the Medellín cartel's property was destroyed.
After the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán, the administration of César Gaviria moved against Escobar and the drug cartels. Eventually, the government negotiated with Escobar and convinced him to surrender and cease all criminal activity in exchange for a reduced sentence and preferential treatment during his captivity. Declaring an end to a series of previous violent acts meant to pressure authorities and public opinion, Escobar surrendered to Colombian authorities in 1991. Before he gave himself up, the extradition of Colombian citizens to the United States had been prohibited by the newly approved Colombian Constitution of 1991. This act was controversial, as it was suspected that Escobar and other drug lords had influenced members of the Constituent Assembly in passing the law. Escobar was confined in what became his own luxurious private prison, La Catedral, which featured a football pitch, giant dollhouse, bar, jacuzzi, and waterfall. Accounts of Escobar's continued criminal activities while in prison began to surface in the media, which prompted the government to attempt to move him to a more conventional jail on 22 July 1992. Escobar's influence allowed him to discover the plan in advance and make a successful escape, spending the remainder of his life evading the police.
Sixteen months after his escape from La Catedral, Pablo Escobar died in a shootout on 2 December 1993, amid another of Escobar's attempts to elude the Search Bloc. A Colombian electronic surveillance team, led by Brigadier Hugo Martínez, used radio trilateration technology to track his radiotelephone transmissions and found him hiding in Los Olivos, a middle-class barrio in Medellín. With authorities closing in, a firefight with Escobar and his bodyguard, Álvaro de Jesús Agudelo (alias "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. Escobar suffered gunshots to the leg and torso, and a fatal gunshot through the ear.
Soon after Escobar's death and the subsequent fragmentation of the Medellín Cartel, the cocaine market became dominated by the rival Cali Cartel until the mid-1990s when its leaders were either killed or captured by the Colombian government. The Robin Hood image that Escobar had cultivated maintained a lasting influence in Medellín. Many there, especially many of the city's poor whom Escobar had aided while he was alive, mourned his death, and over 25,000 people attended his funeral. Some of them consider him a saint and pray to him for receiving divine help.
Narcos is a series based on the story of Pablo Escobar. The series also focuses on Escobar's interactions with drug lords, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, and various opposition entities. The show started on the 28th of August 2015