Pablo Escobar, born on December 1, 1949, in Antioquia, Colombia, entered the cocaine trade in the early 1970s. He collaborated with other criminals to form the Medellin Cartel and eventually controlled over 80% of the cocaine shipped to the U.S. He earned popularity by sponsoring charity projects and soccer clubs, but later terror campaigns that resulted in the murder of thousands turned public opinion against him. He was killed in 1993.
FULL NAME : Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria
FAMOUS AS : Drug Dealer
NATIONALITY : Colombian
BORN ON : December 1, 1949
BIRTHDAY : 1st December
DIED AT AGE : 44
PLACE OF BIRTH : Antioquia, Colombia
DIED ON : December 2, 1993
PLACE OF DEATH : Medellín, Colombia
Height of Power
With the realization that he had no shot of becoming Colombia’s president, and with the United States pushing for his capture and extradition, Escobar unleashed his fury on his enemies.
Using terror, Escobar tried to influence Colombian politics towards a no-extradition clause and to grant amnesty to drug barons in exchange for giving up the trade. His terror campaign resulted in the killings of thousands of people, including politicians, civil servants, journalists and ordinary citizens. The violence claimed the lives of three Colombian presidential candidates, an attorney general, scores of judges and more than 1,000 police officers.
In addition, Escobar was implicated as the mastermind behind the bombing of a Colombian jetliner in 1989 that killed more than 100 people, including two American citizens. Escobar’s terror eventually turned public opinion against him and caused a breakup of the alliance of drug traffickers.
Early Life and Carrier
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was born on December 1, 1949 in the Colombian city of Rionegro, Antioquia, with his family later moving to the suburb of Envigado. He came from modest means; his father worked as a peasant farmer while his mother was a schoolteacher. From an early age, Escobar packed a unique drive and ambition to raise himself up from his humble beginnings.
As a young man, he told friends and family that he wanted to become president of Colombia. Yet as he saw it, his path to wealth and legitimacy lay in crime. He got his start as a petty street thief, stealing cars before moving into the smuggling business. Escobar’s early prominence came during the “Marlboro Wars,” in which he played a high-profile role in the control of Colombia’s smuggled cigarette market. This episode proved to be a valuable training ground for the future narcotics kingpin.
The cash was so prevalent that Escobar purchased a Learjet for the sole purpose of flying his money. With an estimated worth of $30 billion, Escobar was named one of the ten richest people on earth by Forbes.
Even as his fortune and fame grew, Escobar didn’t relinquish his dream to be seen as a leader. In some ways he positioned himself as a Robin Hood-like figure, which was echoed by many locals as he spent money to expand social programs for the poor.
Surrender and Escape
In June 1991, Escobar surrendered to the Colombian government of President Cesar Gaviria. In return, the threat of extradition was lifted and Escobar was allowed to build his own luxury prison called “La Catedral,” which was guarded by men he handpicked from among his employees. The prison lived up to its name and came complete with a casino, spa and nightclub.
In June 1992, however, Escobar escaped when authorities attempted to move him to a more standard holding facility. A manhunt for the drug lord was launched that would last 16 months. During that time the monopoly of the Medellin Cartel, which had begun to crumble during Escobar’s imprisonment as police raided offices and killed its leaders, rapidly deteriorated.
After so many near misses, Colombian law enforcement finally caught up to Escobar on December 2, 1993, the day after his birthday, in a middle-class neighborhood in Medellin. A firefight ensued and, as Escobar tried to escape across a series of rooftops, he and his bodyguard were shot and killed.
Escobar’s death accelerated the demise of the Medellin Cartel and Colombia’s central role in the cocaine trade. His passing was also celebrated by the country’s government and other parts of the world. Still, many Colombians mourned his killing. More than 25,000 people turned out for Escobar’s burial.
“He built houses and cared about the poor,” one funeral goer stated at Escobar’s funeral in a story reported by The New York Times. “In the future, people will go to his tomb to pray, the way they would to a saint.”
Escobar has been the subject of several books, including the following:
- Kings of Cocaine (1989), by Guy Gugliotta, retells the history and operations of the Medellín Cartel, and Escobar’s role within it.
- News of a Kidnapping (1998), by Gabriel García Márquez, details the series of abductions that Escobar masterminded to pressure the Colombian government into guaranteeing him non-extradition if he turned himself in.
- Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw (2001), by Mark Bowden,relates how Escobar was killed and his cartel dismantled by US special forces and intelligence, the Colombian military, and Los Pepes.
- Escobar (2009) is a biography by Escobar’s brother Roberto.
- The Memory of Pablo Escobar (2009), by photographer James Mollison, tells Escobar’s story using over 350 photographs and documents.
- Pablo Escobar, My Father (2014) is a biography by Escobar’s son, Juan Pablo Escobar.
Some Unknown Facts About Escobar
- At his extravagant estate in Puerto Triunfo, Escobar also built a private zoo filled with hippos, giraffes, elephants, and other animals. Hippos still roam the grounds today.
- Escobar was responsible for killing about 4,000 people, including an estimated 200 judges and 1,000 police, journalists, and government officials.
- In the 1980s, Escobar’s Medellin cartel was responsible for 80 percent of the cocaine that was sent to the United States.
- Before getting into the drug trade, Escobar sold stolen tombstones to smugglers and was also into the business of stealing cars.
- Pablo Escobar was born in Rionegro, Colombia in 1949. His father was a farmer, and his mother was a schoolteacher.
- While the Escobar family was in hiding, Pablo’s daughter, Manuela, got sick. To keep her warm, Escobar burned about two million dolllars.
- Escobar is said to have smuggled cocaine into plane tires. Depending on how much product pilots flew, they could earn as much $500,000 per day.
- In an attempt to change the laws of extradition, Escobar offered to pay Colombia’s debt–an estimated 10 billion dollars.
- Escobar spent around $2,500 a month on rubber bands used to hold his money.
- Escobar made the Forbes’ billionaires list of the world’s richest people seven years in a row beginning in 1987 and peaked at number seven in 1989.
- In the late 1980s, Colombian authorities seized some of Escobar’s enormous fleet, including 142 planes, 20 helicopters, 32 yachts, and 141 homes and offices.
- Escobar’s business was so big and so scrutinized that in addition to planes, helicopters, cars, trucks, and boats, he even bought two submarines for transporting his cocaine into the U.S.
- At the height of the drug trade, Escobar smuggled up to 15 tons of cocaine each day.
- Pablo Escobar’s support of the poor earned him the nickname “Robin Hood.”