Pablo Escobar: One Of the Most Notorious Drug Lords in History
One name stands out as the most powerful drug trafficker in the 1980s and early ‘90s: Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria. Or simply, Pablo Escobar. Pablo Escobar was a notorious Colombian criminal born on 1st December 1949 in Rionegro, Colombia. Pablo died on 2nd December 1993. During his lifetime, he carried out incredible atrocities, so much so that he remains well known over two decades following his death as he was during his leadership of the Medellin drug cartel. Multiple books, songs, and movies have highlighted his life.
Here are the most notable facts you need to know about one of the most notorious drug dealers, Pablo Escobar.
Pablo’s Early Start in Crime
A farmer and a schoolteacher gave birth to a son, Pablo Escobar, but their son didn’t grow up to follow in any of their noble professions. Instead, Pablo went into crime while still a teenager. Some reports indicate that the first illegal scheme by Pablo Escobar was selling fake diplomas. This graduated into falsifying report cards and smuggling stereo equipment. He also stole and resold tombstones.
Only when he started stealing cars did he get his first arrest in 1974. But that didn’t stop him. Apparently, he became even bolder. Soon after, he established himself in the drug smuggling business. By the mid-1970s, he was one of the founders of a notorious crime organization which became the infamous Medellin cartel.
$420 million was the weekly earnings the Medellin cartel made during the height of its power. That made Pablo Escobar net worth to increase and become one of the wealthiest people globally. From his reported worth of $25 billion, Pablo spent lavishly on:
- private planes
- luxurious homes
- over-the-top parties
He even offered to pay Colombia’s $10 billion debt in 1980, in exchange for being exempt from an extradition treaty. But that’s hardly the most insane thing he did. He reportedly burned $2 million to keep his daughter warm, during a time his family was on the run between 1992 to 1993. He literally had more money than what he could think of doing with it. A whole lot of the cash was stored in fields and warehouses.
Since it was so much, keeping track of it and storing it safely was a big challenge. As revealed by Pablo’s brother, 10% of the loot was written off annually. That’s a whole $2.1 billion lost, destroyed by the elements or even eaten by rats. Looking at how Pablo spent his money, you can see that the lost billions hardly bothered him.
The Million-Dollar Hacienda Nápoles
Out of all his palatial homes, the 7,000-acre Hacienda Nápoles between Medellin and Bogotá was Escobar’s most notable property. It reportedly cost $63 million.
But that’s not what made it so incredible.
The property had dinosaur statues, a soccer field, a bullfighting arena, artificial lakes, charred remains of a classic car collection which a rival cartel destroyed, an airstrip, and a tennis court. To top it all, the front gate featured the plane Escobar used in his first drug run to the U.S.
One feature stands out from all the rest: a zoo. About 200 animals lived in Escobar’s private zoo: ostriches, elephants, camels, zebras, giraffes, and many others. Many were smuggled into Colombia using Escobar’s drug planes.
Pablo Escobar’s Death
After Pablo Escobar’s death, locals looted the estate.
And authorities transferred most of the animals to zoos. Four hippopotamuses that were left behind soon multiplied to over 40 by 2016. Just like their former owner, Escobar, they inspired fear in locals, damaging their farms. Fortunately, authorities started castrating the male hippos to control their population. However, the estate hasn’t lost all its fame. It’s now a popular tourist attraction.
Robin Hood and “Plata o Plomo”
Pablo Escobar was an evil mastermind through and through. But, he would present a different face to different people. Everyday Colombians gave him the nickname “Robin Hood.” Perhaps, hoping to win their support, he showed his philanthropic side: building stadiums, hospitals, and houses for poor Colombians. He also sponsored local soccer teams. All these made him incredibly popular.
Such popularity went as far as getting Pablo Escobar elected to an alternate seat in Colombia’s Congress in 1982. But shortly afterward, his criminal activities were exposed. Two years after his election and Pablo had to resign. The justice minister behind Escobar’s resignation was assassinated.
Pablo’s not-so-good side is summed up in the words, “Plata o plomo.” That means “silver” (bribes) or “lead” (bullets). Escobar preferred bribes, but he could just as easily use bullets. It’s reported that Pablo killed about 4,000 people. His victims included government officials and police officers. Some were mere casualties of his murderous ways as seen in a 1989 bombing of a plane carrying an alleged informant. The Medellin cartel was blamed for the incident in which 100 people died.
At one point it seemed that authorities finally had the chance to capture the notorious drug merchant. In 1991, Escobar chose to turn himself in. However, he had the ridiculous precondition that he be allowed to build his own prison; which, surprisingly, the Colombian officials accepted. He built La Catedral, which was just as luxurious as his palatial homes. Eventually, he escaped from “his” prison. This happened in July 1992, before he could be transferred after he killed two cartel members at La Catedral. Apparently, that gave the Colombian government a new-found resolve to capture the criminal.
U.S. officials and Pablo’s rivals reportedly helped the authorities. Pablo’s hideout was discovered a day after his birthday, December 2, 1993. Colombian forces stormed his building. Escobar and a bodyguard escaped to the roof, but he was finally shot and died.
It’s speculated that Pablo committed suicide. That’s because he had once stated that he “would rather have a grave in Colombia than a jail cell in the U.S.” The man who controlled 80% of the global cocaine market was dead.
What matters most is Escobar’s death significantly reduced the damage drug trafficking did to Medellin. By 2016, Medellin was no longer among the 50 most violent cities in the world.
Unfortunately, Colombia remains the main cocaine producer globally.