Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria (1949 - 1993)

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Birthplace: Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia
Death: Died in Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Cause of death: Gunshot
Occupation: Columbian drug lord
Managed by: Mandy Tan
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria (December 1, 1949 – December 2, 1993) was a Colombian drug lord. Often referred to as the "World's Greatest Outlaw", he was perhaps the most elusive cocaine trafficker ever to have lived. He is regarded as the richest and most successful criminal in world history. Some other sources state that he was the second richest criminal ever, after Amado Carrillo Fuentes. In 1989, Forbes magazine declared Escobar as the seventh richest man in the world, with an estimated personal fortune of US$25 billion.[4] He owned innumerable luxury residences and automobiles and, in 1986, he attempted to enter Colombian politics, even offering to pay off the nation's US$ 10 billion national debt. It is said that Escobar once burned US$ 2 million in cash just to keep warm while on the run.

Escobar was born in the village of Rionegro in Antioquia, Colombia, the fourth of six children to Abel de Jesus Escobar, a peasant, and Hemilda Gaviria, an elementary school teacher. Pablo and his family resided in an adobe hut that had no electricity but had running water. This would place him solidly within the middle class in that part of Colombia at that time. Pablo and his brother were once sent home from school because Pablo had no shoes and no money to buy them. Escobar studied political science at a nearby university but was forced to drop out when he could not afford to pay the required fees. This was when he began his criminal career, allegedly stealing gravestones and sanding them down for resale to smugglers. His brother, Roberto Escobar, refutes this, claiming that the gravestones came from cemetery owners whose clients had stopped paying for site care and that they had a relative who had a legitimate monuments business. He studied for a short time at the University of Antioquia.

After this alleged hustling business, Pablo started doing whatever else he could to make money — from running petty street scams with his gang to selling contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets. He even conned people out of their cash when they would leave the bank. By the time he was 20, he was already an accomplished car thief. In the early 1970s, he was a thief and bodyguard, and he made a quick $100,000 on the side kidnapping and ransoming a Medellín executive before entering the drug trade. His next step on the ladder was to become a millionaire by working for the multi-millionaire contraband smuggler, Rafael Puente. Through his dedication and guile, Pablo became a millionaire by the time he was 22. Many of the alleged feats of Pablo Escobar are folklore of his "enemies", and feats that actually rivaling gangs commited. How can anyone truthfully point out certain feats, when at that time in Colombia anything could be bought for the right fee.

A book released by Pablo's brother, Roberto Escobar, called The Accountant's Story discusses how Pablo rose from poverty and obscurity to become one of the richest men of the world. Arguably the largest and most successful criminal enterprise in world history, at times the Medellín drug cartel was smuggling 15 tons of cocaine a day, worth more than half a billion dollars, into the United States. According to Roberto, Pablo's accountant, he and his brother's operation spent $2,500 a month just purchasing rubber bands to wrap the stacks of cash—and since they had more illegal money than they could deposit in the banks, they stored the bricks of cash in their warehouses, annually writing off 10% as "spoilage" when the rats crept in at night and nibbled on the hundred dollar bills.[12]

In 1975, Escobar started developing his cocaine operation. He even flew a plane himself several times, mainly between Colombia and Panama,to smuggle a load into the United States. When he later bought 15 new and bigger airplanes (including a Learjet) and 6 helicopters, he decommissioned the plane and hung it above the gate to his ranch at Hacienda Napoles. His reputation grew after a well known Medellín dealer named Fabio Restrepo was murdered in 1975 ostensibly by Escobar, from whom he had purchased 14 kilograms. Afterwards, all of Restrepo's men were informed that they now worked for Pablo Escobar. Restrepo had tried to kill Pablo, but failed miserably. In May 1976 Escobar and several of his men were arrested and were found in possession of 39 pounds (18 kg) of white paste after returning to Medellín with a heavy load from Ecuador. Initially, Pablo tried unsuccessfully to bribe the Medellín judges who were forming the case against him. Instead, after many months of legal wrangling Pablo had the two arresting officers bribed and the case was dropped. It was here that he began his pattern of dealing with the authorities by either bribing them or killing them.[13] Roberto Escobar maintains Pablo fell into the business simply because contraband became too dangerous to traffic. He could make more money with one truck loaded with cocaine than 40 carrying booze and cigarettes. There were no drug cartels then and only a few drug barons, so there was plenty of business for everyone. In Peru, they bought the cocaine paste, which they refined in a laboratory in a two-story house in Medellín. On his first trip, Pablo bought a paltry £30 worth of paste in what was to become the first step towards the building of his empire. At first, he smuggled the cocaine in old plane tires and a pilot could earn as much as £500,000 a flight depending on how much he could smuggle.[14]

Soon the demand for cocaine was skyrocketing in the United States and Pablo organized more smuggling shipments, routes, and distribution networks in South Florida, California and other parts of the USA. He and Carlos Lehder worked together to develop a new island trans-shipment point in the Bahamas, called Norman's Cay. Carlos and Robert Vesco purchased most of the land on the Island which included a 3,300 foot airstrip, a harbor, hotel, houses, boats, aircraft and even built a refrigerated warehouse to store the cocaine. From 1978–1982, this was used as a central smuggling route for the Medellín Cartel. (According to his brother's account, Pablo did not purchase Normans Cay. It was, instead, a sole venture of Carlos Lehder.) Escobar was able to purchase the 7.7 square miles (20 km2) of land, which included Hacienda Napoles, for several million dollars. He created a zoo, a lake and other diversions for his family and organization.[15] At one point it was estimated that 70 to 80 tons of cocaine were being shipped from Colombia to the U.S. every month. At the peak of his power in the mid-1980s, he was shipping as much as 11 tonnes per flight in jetliners to the United States (the biggest load shipped by Pablo was 23,000 kg mixed with fish paste and shipped via boat, this is confirmed by his brother in the book Escobar). In addition to using the planes, Pablo's brother, Roberto Escobar, said he also used two small remote-controlled submarines as a way to transport the massive loads (these subs were, in fact, manned and this is again documented in Roberto's book).[1]

In 1982, Escobar was elected as a deputy/alternative representative to the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia's Congress, as part of the Colombian Liberal Party.[16] During the 1980s, Escobar became known internationally as his drug network gained notoriety; the Medellín Cartel 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.

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," (literally silver or lead, colloquially [accept] money or [face] bullets). This resulted in the deaths of hundreds of individuals, including civilians, policemen and state officials. At the same time, Escobar bribed countless government officials, judges and other politicians. Escobar was allegedly 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. Though proof has never been presented for the cases, and the fact that in 2007 Alberto Santofimio Botero - another presidental candidate, was convicted for ordering the murder of his rival. 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 is sometimes 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, 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 those who discusses the attack is "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. Roberto Escobar stated in his book, that indeed the M-19 were paid to break into the building of the supreme court, and burn all papers and files on Los Extraditables - the group of cocaine smugglers who were under threat of being extradited to the US by ther Colombian government. But the plan backfired and hostages were taken for negtiation of their release, so Los Extraditables were not directly responsible for the actions of the M-19.

Pablo Escobar once said that the essence of the cocaine business was "simple - you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back." In 1987 Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be the seventh-richest man in the world with a personal wealth of close to US$25 billion while his Medellín cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market. In most businesses, seeing a return on investment (ROI) of 100% would be more than enough for a company to thrive. By some estimates, Pablo Escobar enjoyed an ROI of as much as 20,000%.[citation needed] In other words, for every $1 invested in the business, he received approximately $200 in return.

While seen as an enemy of the United States and Colombian governments, Escobar was a hero to many in Medellín (especially the poor people); he was a natural at public relations and he worked to create goodwill among the poor people of Colombia. A lifelong sports fan, he was credited with building well over 800 football fields and multi-sports courts, as well as sponsoring little league football teams.

Escobar was responsible for the construction of many hospitals, schools and churches in western Colombia, which gained him popularity inside the local Roman Catholic Church.[20] 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.

Despite his popular image among Medellín's impoverished community Escobar was well-known among his business associates to be an calm and sensible negotiator, that preferred to use money before the gun. Many of the wealthier residents of Medellin also viewed him as a threat. His brother said his ability to befriend the dangerous and intimidate the powerful is what made him as unstoppable as he was, but they all respected his exellence in making profit - therefore threatening became many times unnecessary. At the height of his power, drug traffickers from Medellín and other areas were handing over between 20 and 35% of their Colombian cocaine-related profits to Escobar, because he was the one who shipped the cocaine successfully to the US.

The Colombian cartels continuing struggles to maintain supremacy resulted in Colombia's 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 the governments giving money to poor youths as a reward for killing corrupt police officers, over 600 of whom died in this way. Today, Colombia is surpassed by several countries, such as Guatemala, South Africa and Venezuela. Funny as it may seem, the cocaine-trafficing was introduced quite late in the -70:es, and historically coffey, banana, precious metal and especially the emerald business has always been a very violent trade, where murders were very common. Even to this day, the emerald business has by far harvested more peoples lives than the cocaine trade.

In March 1976 at the age of 26, Escobar married Maria Victoria who was 15 years old. Together they had two children: Juan Pablo and Manuela. Escobar created and lived in a luxurious estate called Hacienda Nápoles (Spanish for Naples Estate) and had planned to construct a Greek-style citadel near it. Construction of the citadel was begun but 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 has been converted into a theme park

The war against Escobar ended on December 2, 1993, amid another attempt to elude the Search Bloc. Using radio triangulation technology provided as part of the United States efforts, a Colombian electronic surveillance team, led by Brigadier Hugo Martinez, found him hiding in a middle-class barrio in Medellín. With authorities closing in, a firefight with Escobar and his bodyguard, Alvaro de Jesús Agudelo AKA "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. He 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. One very popular theory is that Hugo Aguilar shot Escobar with just one shot with his 9 mm pistol.[citation needed] Some of the family members believe that Escobar could have committed suicide. His two brothers, Roberto Escobar and Fernando Sánchez Arellano, believe 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." During the autopsy however, there was no stippling pattern found around the ear, which suggested that the shot which killed Escobar was fired from further than an arm's length away.

After Escobar's death and the fragmentation of the Medellín Cartel 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 Colombian government.

The Robin Hood image that he had cultivated continued to have lasting influence in Medellín. Many there, especially many of the city's poor that had been aided by him while he was alive, lamented his death.

Escobar's widow, Maria Victoria Henao (now Maria Isabel Santos Caballero), son, Juan Pablo (now Juan Sebastian Marroquín Santos), and daughter, Manuela, fled Colombia in 1995 after failing to find a country that would grant asylum. Argentinian filmmaker Nicolas Entel's documentary Sins of My Father chronicles Marroquín's efforts to seek forgiveness from the sons of Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Colombia's justice minister in the early 1980s, who was assassinated in 1984, as well as the sons of Luis Carlos Galán, the presidential candidate, who was assassinated in 1989. The film was shown at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and premiered in the US on HBO on October 2010.

He is also survived by his godson, Daniel Ray Rodríguez Gacha, the son of Jose Rodríguez Gacha.

The rest of Escobar's family is thought to have migrated to Venezuela, including his aunt Leticia Escobar and her two daughters, one of whom now lives in Texas.[citation needed] Some have fled to the United States

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Pablo Escobar's Timeline

1949
December 1, 1949
Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia
1993
December 2, 1993
Age 44
Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
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Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia