Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was one of the world’s most powerful criminals. Dubbed the ‘King of Cocaine’ in the 1980’s, his ill-gotten gains led to a personal fortune estimated at $3 billion, in 1989. Ruthless Escobar let nothing, and no-one, stand in his way. Eventually, the criminal mastermind would learn the law always catches up with you…
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was born 1 December, 1949, in Rionegro, Colombia. From humble beginnings, he had a farmer father and his mother was an elementary schoolteacher. As a kid, ambitious Escobar declared he wanted to become president of Colombia.
Yet, as a teen on the streets of Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia, Escobar became a petty thief. He stole gravestones before sanding them down for resale to smugglers. His crimes escalated to smuggling cigarettes and, by the early 70s, together with other criminals, he formed the Medellin Cartel. Escobar oversaw the trafficking of cocaine on a large scale. Using private planes, the drugs were flown to the USA. Demand for cocaine was high, and profits soared to astronomical proportions. It’s said Escobar’s Medellin Cartel controlled 80 per cent of all the cocaine shipped to the US market in the 70’s and 80’s.
More than 15 tons of cocaine were reportedly smuggled every day, with the Cartel making as much as $420 million a week.
‘Money or Lead’
If the authorities got in his way, he dealt with them in what he called ‘plata o plomo’. This translates as ‘money or lead’. In other words, if they couldn’t be bribed, he’d order them killed.
Escobar built a personal empire of 400 luxury villas around the world, private planes, his own army and a private zoo with exotic animals.
According to Forbes, he was the 7th richest person in the world in 1989 with a personal fortune of $3 billion.
In 1976, Escobar married Maria Victoria Henao. The couple had two children together.
‘Modern-day Robin Hood’?
Adept at creating his own good PR, Pablo once stated: ‘I am not a rich man, I am a poor man with money.’
The murderous drug lord earned popularity by sponsoring charity projects and soccer clubs in Colombia. He won the admiration of many Colombians, who saw him as a ‘modern day Robin Hood’ figure, who spent money on social programs for the poor.
In 1982, Escobar was elected as an alternate member of Colombia’s Congress. But, two years after his election, he was forced to resign as details of Escobar’s true line of work were revealed. The justice minister who’d disclosed Escobar’s notorious background was later killed. Escobar’s terror campaign resulted in the death of thousands, including politicians, police officers, civil servants, journalists and ordinary citizens. Eventually, public opinion turned against him and, with his empire crumbling, Escobar’s powerful grip on Colombia was slipping.
On The Run
In June 1991, Escobar agreed to surrender to the Colombian government. In return, Escobar was allowed to build his own luxury prison called “La Catedral,” which was guarded by his own cherry-picked employees. The prison had a casino, spa and nightclub.
In June 1992, however, when authorities attempted to move him to a standard holding facility, Escobar escaped. The resulting 16-month manhunt concluded on 2 December 1993, the day after Escobar’s 44th birthday.
As Escobar tried escaping across a series of rooftops, he and his bodyguard were shot dead.
One of Escobar’s mottoes was: ‘Better a grave in Colombia than a cell in the United States.’
Pablo Escobar’s wish was granted. He’s buried in Cemetario Jardins Montesacro, Medellin, and some 25,000 mourners attended his funeral.