Pablo Escobar (or Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria) is often referred to as the ‘King of coke’. This Colombian drugs lord is probably the most famous and successful cocaine trafficker in human history. It is said that 80% of all cocaine shipped to the American market in the 70’s and 80’s was supplied by Escobar and his Medellin Cartel. Having a near monopoly on the cocaine business, Escobar earned billions of dollars, which he used to build a personal empire of 400 luxury villas all around the world, private airplanes, his own army and even 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 USD.
Pablo Escobar Biography
Pablo Escobar was born on December 1st, 1949 in the town of Rionegro, Colombia. His father was a farmer and his mother an elementary school teacher. Coming from a relatively poor family, the young Pablo Escobar had lots of ambition to make it in life. He started his criminal career as a teenager on the streets of Medellin by stealing tombstones, sandblasting them to remove the names and reselling them to Panamese smugglers.
His criminal career
Before entering the drugs trade in the early 70’s, Escobar was involved in various other criminal activities, from stealing cars and selling contraband cigarettes to kidnapping. It didn’t take long for him to discover that trafficking cocaine was the fastest path to wealth and power. The proces was simple: He bought the paste of coca leaves in Bolivia and Peru, since the coca in Colombia was of inferior quality at the time. He refined it in Colombia on one of his properties and afterwards he transported it to the US.
First this was done in small quantities on commercial flights or hidden in old plane tires. But under the influence of professional smugglers like Carlos Lehder and George Jung, he soon started trafficking on a much larger scale via private airplanes. It is said that in the early days Pablo Escobar even flew a couple of flights himself, mainly from Colombia to Panama, from where the drugs was further transported to the US. The demand for cocaine was skyrocketing in the US and Pablo Escobar started building a huge fortune.
Plata o plomo
Whenever the authorities got in his way, he always dealt with them in the same way. He called it ‘plata o plomo’ which can be literally translated into ‘money or lead’. The word “lead” in this case is slang for bullets (which are made of lead). When a policeman, politician or judge hindered his activities, he would first try to bribe the person. If this didn’t work, he would order one of his hit men to kill him. It is said that 100’s or maybe 1000’s of honest men and women found their death by crossing the path of Escobar, including 3 Colombian presidential candidates and the Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla.
According to rumors, he was also the financer of the attack on the Supreme Court by the guerrillas of the 19th of April Movement. At the time of the attack, the Supreme Court was discussing Colombia’s extradition treaty with the US, a treaty that made it possible to extradite drugs lords like Escobar to the US for prosecution. During the attack, most of the papers and files were destroyed and half of the judges present were killed.
Pablo Escobar’s death
Notorious and untouchable in his own country, Pablo Escobar soon became America’s number 1 enemy and in 92 the US special forces joined the manhunt for him. They advised and assisted in the training of a Colombian special police force called the Search Bloc. After lots of failed attempts to find and bring down Escobar, the Search Bloc was finally successful on December 2nd, 1993. A Colombian surveillance team was able to track him down in the Medellin neighborhood where the young Escobar grew up. Being surrounded and in the middle of a fire fight, Escobar tried to escape together with his closest bodyguard via the roofs of adjoining houses. Nevertheless, both of them were shot to death by the Colombian police forces during this attempt to escape.
Pablo Escobar, the king of coke, died 1 day after his 44th birthday.