Drug baron number one
Simultaneously, as the United States turned snow-white, Colombia was drowned in blood. Nothing got in the way of the young Colombian Pablo Escobar. The motto was “silver or lead” or “Plata o Plomo” in Spanish. He earned over $400 million a week at his peak, more than 15 tons of cocaine were smuggled into the United States every day, and he had more power than Colombia’s president.
As a seventeen-year-old, Pablo drops out of high school and tells his desperate mother that he will be a millionaire before turning 22. The only way to get that rich in Colombia is to engage in crime. Pablo starts selling smuggled cigarettes and counterfeit lotteries and steals cars. The money starts to roll in, and Pablo expands the business to include kidnappings. In 1971, he hits the jackpot when his men kidnap Diego Echavarría. An unpopular industrialist, he had fired many of the workers from the textile factories in the Medellín area. Echavarria’s family immediately pays the $50,000 that Escobar asked for. But instead of freeing him, Pablo’s minions beat him for several weeks until they strangled him and dumped the body in a ditch. Colombia’s upper strata of society are fiercely surprised while the inhabitants rejoice. “El Patrón” – the boss – thus sends the first signal to the outside world that he is not pulling for anything in his pursuit of money and power.
In the 1970s, Colombian criminals began to open their eyes to cocaine as a commodity. Colombia’s climate is perfect for the coca bush. Pablo’s only problem is that drug lord Fabio Restrepo controls most of the trade. But one day, he is found murdered, and suddenly it is El Patrón who controls all the cocaine trade in his hometown. The white powder is smuggled out to the USA, where it is a status symbol in the same class as Dom Pérignon champagne and the finest caviar. The flights depart from Escobar’s runways in Latin America. The powder is hidden in the aircraft tires and they fly under the radar. It will not be long before Pablo becomes a billionaire.
Of all the billions, the country’s inhabitants also get their share. Pablo starts pumping money into hospitals, schools, and football pitches, among other places. Many Colombians are beginning to liken him to a Colombian Robin Hood who steals from the rich capitalists in the United States and gives to the poor in Colombia. Thus, the vast majority of the poor choose to look between the fingers while the violence in the streets rages.
Forbes Magazine estimates that Pablo is worth about $200 billion and the authorities are getting enough. The assignment is given to Hugo Martínez, head of Bloque de Búsqueda. During his career, Martínez has followed the drug baron’s career closely and knows every detail about the major criminal. He knows that Pablo prefers to have sex with 14-15-year-old girls, wears white Nike shoes, stuffs himself with fast food, and is always surrounded by at least 15 bodyguards. Martínez knows the risks, in the 80’s Pablo murdered several of his police colleagues, but also journalists, judges, and politicians. Escobar’s way of dealing with the authorities is under the motto “Plata o Plomo?”: Either you receive Pablo’s Plata – silver – or he kills you with his Plomo – lead.
Incorruptible police officers are recruited, either from remote parts of Colombia or police officers who have had close relatives losing their lives due to the drug baron’s motto. In total, about 200 elite soldiers or police are recruited who, with the USA’s help, storm the Medellín cartel’s warehouse and lab with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests. What follows is a Colombia that for about a year in essence is a war zone. A total of 657 Martínez men were killed, and more than 3,000 civilians were killed.
Eventually, both sides are mangled, and the two parties begin negotiations. After the negotiations, “El Patrón” offers to go to prison – if he is allowed to build it himself, and he will only admit a single crime, that he acted as an intermediary in a single drug deal. Tired of the war, President César Gaviria agrees to the conditions. He had previously lost his cousin, buried alive by Escobar’s henchmen.
In 1991, El Patrón walked into his own newly built prison, which in practice is a palace. There are bars, water beds, a soccer field, a jacuzzi, offices, a gym, prostitutes, etc. The luxury prison was called “Hotel Escobar” or “Club Medellin” in the media. And, of course, the guards were bribed.
However, violence in Colombia is declining, while Escobar controls his drug empire from his prison office. However, the Americans complain loudly about the farce, and in 1992 the absurd situation becomes too much for President Gaviría. Government troops stormed the prison at the same time as Escobar manages to disappear after a hostage drama. Escobar is now becoming society’s “number one enemy” and violence is escalating once again. Colonel Martinez and his men release all restraints and chase Pablo’s men mercilessly through all of Colombia. They offer $6.5 million for information leading to the arrest of El Patrón, while Escobar offers $2,000 for each dead police officer in Medellín.
But piece by piece, Pablo’s army falls. His brother gives up and submits. Former partners such as George Jung, who helped with the export to America, stand in line to help the authorities so to receive less severe punishment.
On December 2, 1993, Pablo talks on the phone with his son as usual. He even throws out a greeting to his persecutors: “Colonel, I intend to kill you. I’ll kill your whole family until the third generation. And after that, I will dig up your grandparents and shoot them before I bury them again ”. However, he happens to talk for too long on the phone this time, and the tracking device manages to pick up a clear signal. They manage to locate the house, and soon the whole house is surrounded by government forces. Pablo and his bodyguard try to escape on the house’s roof, but here Martinez men awaits with automatic weapons. They shoot the bodyguard who falls from the roof, and shortly afterward, Pablo is shot down. The drug baron has been hit by several shots. The killing bullet went straight through his head, ear to ear. The police radio called out, “Viva Colombia! We just killed Pablo Escobar! ”