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Born in Antioquia, Colombia 1949, Pablo Escobar was a university dropout with no discernible skills. In his naïve youth he began his irrecoverable descent into the gutters of criminal underworld by fencing gravestones. Although he has denied the gravestone yarn, he has admitted to petty street scams such as selling contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets. It was during this phase of his life he discovered that the path of least resistance was more profitable than the expenditure of purposeful energy. In his early 20s, he was a thief and bodyguard, and created easy wealth through ransom demands. He dreamt big and followed his dreams – a precious dogma if and only if the pursuit is supported by legitimate toil. Of his more lucrative enterprises were the transportation of contraband goods. Following this stint, he then dabbled in marijuana trafficking until he stumbled upon the absurdly profitable career of cocaine trafficking. Conceptually, the idea was simple: buy coca paste from the Indians in Peru and process it in the extensive jungle labs along Colombian/Venezuelan border. One such lab occupied 37,000 acres. It was a self-contained city with schools, clinics, housing, fueling stations and runways. It had the capacity to process and ship 10,000 kilograms every fifteen days.
From Colombia the processed drug was flown to trans-shipment points in Panama, Jamaica or Costa Rica and then to their final destination, mainly the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe. On their return flight, planes of drug commerce were laden with cash. The fleet of aircrafts, included six helicopters and 15 planes. The latter include a Boeing 727 and a DC-3. The legendary ruggedness of the DC-3 and its ability to take off and land on grass or dirt runways made it ideal for the jungle operation. The pre-owned Boeing 727 and with a capacity of 10 thousand kilos was ideally suited to Pablo’s trafficking needs. This formidable air-power was ably supported by two submarines, each with a capacity of transporting 1,000-1,200 kg every 2 weeks. Chief Executive Officer, Pablo, had his own Learjet overseeing this drug conglomerate. So rewarding was the drug business to the local Medellin economy that unemployment plunged, new businesses mushroomed and the construction industry flourished. Pablo became fabulously wealthy. So flushed was he, that 10% of cash fell victim to rodent action. To facilitate cash storage, Pablo spent $2,500 per month on elastic bands. Such a blizzard of currency is within the realm of credibility considering that that his drug-toting planes were freighted with as much as USD$70-million on their return flight.to Self-destruction
The Path of Self-destructiono Self-destruction
His childhood ambition was to become a millionaire at age 22 – a dream he likely realized several times over. By age 26 he was exceptionally rich. By the mid-1980, Pablo owned 19 residences in Medellin alone, each boasting a heliport. He owned apartment complexes, housing developments, and real estate properties throughout the world including one in Spain. Pablo had 400 farms in Colombia, property in the Dominican Republic and an $8-million-dollar apartment in Florida. Although not obvious, the banks he owned served to launder dirty drug money.
Among other symbolism of his bewildering wealth was his favorite homestead, Hacienda Los Napoles. It took 10 years to complete at cost $63 million – a self-contained estate located in Antioquia, about the size of Macau. The mansion could sleep 100 guests at a time. Entertainment featured billiards, pinball machines, a Wurlitzer jukebox Associated with the main house were several satellite buildings. This palatial structure was an in-house movie theater, Jacuzzis and an oversupply of bronzed buxom beauties.
The idyllic property spanning two different political jurisdictions was charmingly landscaped with orchards, and meadows stocked with Brahman cows. The 7,500 acres, boasted several landing strips and more exotic animals than most progressive South American zoos. Among the foreign animal collection were rhinos, elephants, lions, hippos, camels, ostriches, tigers, miniature ponies, dolphins, zebras, monkeys, kangaroos, giraffes and birds including endearingly colored parrots. The sporting facilities had tennis courts, swimming pools, basketball courts, soccer fields and a private bull-ring. To add mystique to the property, Pablo created several lakes on which he jet-skied. A river ran through this piece of real estate as well.
Pablo and family had a penchant for things exotic. He owned paintings by Picasso, Botero, van Gogh and Salvador Dali. His antique car collection was valued at $4 million. Among the esoteric collection, were eight antique Rolls-Royces and a bullet proof stretch Mercedes. At its operational peak, the heads of the drug cartel were earning $2 billion per year. By 1989, at age 40, Pablo was one of the world’s richest men. In 1976, Pablo married Maria Victoria who was just 15 years old. Like Pablo, she is known for her unrestrained excesses: she owned several hundred pairs of these. They had two children: Juan Pablo (aka Sebastian Marroquin) and Manuela. All three currently live in Argentina.
Reveling in Unearned Luxury
He enjoyed a self-indulgent life. Work offended him: it was a dirty four-letter word. He had no appetite for honest labor: cleaning and disguising headstones would involve some measure of personal effort. For this reason, he was entirely believable when he denied his involvement in poaching headstones. Dropping out of high school at age seventeen, he followed a dissolute routine. Rising well past midday, after several puffs of marijuana and remained in a stupefied state of altered consciousness for the rest of the day, only to repeat the process. When not strung-out, he would hang out at bars squandering his adolescent energy in frivolous pursuits. His pretentious show of wealth was part of his identity. He was known to flash his Rolex watch. On surrendering to Colombian authorities in 1991, he proudly displayed a Cartier watch while wielding a pearl-studded hand gun. A blue jeans aficionado, his clothes were always designer quality. He never wore the same shirt twice and always new sneakers. Always well insulated by retinue of body guards, he had an ample supply of Colombian vamps at his whim. For entertainment, Pablo hired nude models, played soccer under flood lights and had the games called. Living the regal life, Pablo owned soccer clubs, discos and fine restaurants in Medellin. The day before he was slaughtered, he hosted his birthday celebrations with a banquet of the finest seafood and expensive champagne: Vida de Clicoff. Part of his re-creative activities at the Hacienda was to go trail bike riding or jet skiing on any of his multiple lakes. This international drug-smuggler was well traveled, as well. He had seen most of Europe and the Far East including Hong Kong. In the United States he visited Florida, Las Vegas, the White House and Graceland. In Las Vegas, he stayed at Caesar’s Palace and took a helicopter tour with Frank Sinatra over the Grand Canyon. Ever conscious of his obligations to his family, he took the entire Escobar clan to Disney World in Florida. Performing for his exclusive entertainment on his 41st birthday was a group of blind musicians. On the grand occasion, lobster and octopus adorned the menu. Polishing off the evening’s dessert entrée was Portuguese Port. Celebrating his 42nd birthday, Pablo was regaled by a musical band and served caviar and pink salmon to this eclectic group. The occasion was crowned with a football match played against the National Soccer Team. Like most criminals he was depraved and given to over-indulgence. Some of his simple pleasures, however, involved ten-speed bikes, Marlboro cigarettes and Johnny Walker Black Scotch Whisky. Since he had a perverse aversion to work, his servant entourage was long – at least one for each task.
A Surfeit of Overindulgence
He lovingly bestowed on his family practical pieces of real estate. A grateful son, he gave his mother a house as a present. At a family gathering for Christmas 1981, he donated about 40 such houses: one to each member of his extended family. Conscious of his own lack of education, he awarded each adult member a car and money to support their youngsters’ education. To his adoring wife, he showered her with rare paintings, clothes, jewelry and several houses. His debased ways were evident even in prison. Following the assassination of presidential candidate, Luis Carlos Galán, President Cesar Gaviria proposed that he surrendered and cease criminal activity in exchange for a lenient sentence. He agreed and was confined in La Catedral. It was as state within a state; and certainly not a conventional prison. In this hilltop fortress overlooking Medellin, Pablo wielded immense power from its secured perimeters. From there he administered the business of his global drug empire. When not busy with mundane stuff, like murder, he spent time reading and exercising. A doting father, he viewed his daughter’s activities by telescope while chatting with her by phone. Built to his specification, La Catedral was more a resort than a prison; there he lived opulently. It was home-away-from-home with every conceivable amenity including a bar, gym, bicycles, sauna, living room, kitchen, bedrooms, baths, and play area for his children. To enhance the experience, he was allowed audio records, books, videos, wall-sized TVs, movies and a Jacuzzi to soothe his overworked sinews. And yes, no man’s life can ever be complete without this one permanent fixture – a woman. Of these, he had a bountiful supply of designer models. Because of his wide-ranging influence, he was able to keep personal chefs and ate pork, beans, eggs, rice or whatever he so chose to please his broad palatal spectrum. A stream of parties kept Pablo amused. He was known to host 48-hour parties including wedding receptions. In spite being imprisoned he was able to indulge in his consuming passion for the sport of soccer, and played ad nauseam. Under the ironic strictures of Pablo’s prison, he was free to leave at will.
The Price of Unearned Luxury
To perpetuate this utopic existence, he waged a spree of blood-stained tyranny. He ruthlessly prearranged the slaughter drug dealers, law enforcement officers, Supreme Court judges, generals, politicians and thousands of innocent civilians who dared to cross him. In the process of bringing him to justice a cursory estimate indicate that over about 2,000 police officers were sacrificed. During the first six months pursuing Pablo, more than 65 police officers lost their lives. The bombing of Avianca Flight 203 with 107 innocent civilians was a calculated attempt to assassinate presidential candidate, Cesar Gaviria in November 1989. Because of Pablo’s ongoing criminal activities within the confines of La Catedral, the authorities sought to have him relocated. Fearing relocation was a pretext for extradition to the United States, on July 22, 1992, Pablo made a leisurely escape. On the lam, he was ruthlessly hounded by four different forces. Foremost among them was the American elitist Delta Force. Ably supporting Delta Force was Centra Spike – a Special Operations unit trained in electronic surveillance and capable of collecting actionable intelligence. Not to be upstaged, the Colombian government deployed its own Search Bloc – a specially constituted body of dedicated officers. Members of this team were commanded by the incorruptible Colonel Hugo Martinez whose principal objective was the apprehension of Pablo Escobar. Complementing the specialty forces was Los Pepes – a vigilante group composed of Pablo’s rivals and former associates. So remorselessly besieged was he, to escape detection he was constantly shifting positions. In one instance, he was forced to make a 30-day trek through the dense Colombian jungles. His attempt at eluding captivity lasted over a year. He seethed with resentment. As Pablo was deeply attached to his family being hotly hounded prevented family time. Gone was the fictional life. Waging a bloody campaign of terror against the Escobar clan was his dreaded arch rivals, Los Pepes. Specifically targeting close family members, Los Pepes vendetta exploded with volcanic force. Murdering with impunity, they systematically slaughtered over 300 of Escobar’s associates and relatives and razed untold amounts of the cartel’s property. So deep was the resentment that a $3-million stud horse belonging to Roberto – Pablo’s elder brother – was spirited away and ******************* owned by Pablo’s mother, Hermia, was bombed and a sister’s house set ablaze destroying a valuable Picasso. Even remote associates of Pablo became helpless victims. With methodical efficiency, Los Pepes eviscerated the structure of the Medellin Cartel. They pursued anyone and everyone connected to Pablo thereby killing accountants, lawyers, bankers, and other business associates. They kept close vigil on the homes of family members while providing subtle threats in the hope of flushing out Pablo. Unable to defend his family, Pablo fumed in agony.
But it was not only Pablo’s immediate family that was in peril. Roberto paid dearly for his fealty. For his role in the drug cartel – illegal possession of weapons, embezzlement, drug trafficking, murder and accomplice to kidnapping, Roberto was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In prison, a letter bomb exploded in his face gouging out one eye and partially compromising the vision in the other. Other body parts were affected too: one of his hands was severely mangled, his nose shattered and ear drums damaged. Since then, Roberto has undergone 22 corrective surgeries to restore damaged ****** structures. Today Roberto barely survives; most of his property forfeited to the State. Other family members were not as lucky. One of Pablo’s cousins and his parents were brutally battered before being executed; four other cousins either had their heads blasted off by submachine guns or butchered in the presence of family members. The bloodlust was absolute and the torrent of blood on the streets flowed from the Escobar clan. Through serial bombings, kidnappings and assassinations, Los Pepes sent shockwaves through the Escobar clan. To exterminate the family, Los Pepes attacked the residence of Pablo’s wife and children with grenade launchers. In the introductory salvo, the family was away from home, but a helpless Pablo seethed silently. As Maria raged frantically, a subsequent grenade attack detonated outside their door steps. It was sheer terror. Two brothers were brutally murdered by Pablo rivals and another executed by law enforcement. Los Pepes had executed several members of the extended family, burned their properties, and closing in on the immediate family. The government which had been providing protection thus far ratcheted up the pressure on the family. Attempting to flush Pablo out, they withdrew their protective support to Pablo’s family. They were now in dire straits. In desperation Maria pleaded with the Attorney General for extended safeguard to the family. He refused. Juan Pablo encapsulated their feelings at the moment as one of worry, desperation, anguish and anger. But the cost of unmerited luxury is untold wretchedness and Maria and family were paying in unimaginable ways. With no capacity to defend, a panic-stricken Maria fled to safer havens. Under pressure from the US, several countries refused entry. To save her family, Maria and children sought asylum in Germany, but they were denied entry and forced back to Bogota. Holed up in a nearby hotel in Bogota, they became ensnared in an inextricable political quagmire with not even token assistance. Indeed, they were marooned in their own country. Caged-in and desperate, Maria and children fled to Argentina where they currently live under assumed names. In Argentina, Maria was jailed for money laundering. She claims she is being persecuted and feels like a prisoner in Argentina for being Colombian. They were stalked by misery stalked. Juan Pablo, now Sebastian Marroquin, is involved in the clothes manufacturing business. He has embarked on a path of reconciliation and forgiveness with former victims of his father. According to him, the only thing he inherited from his father was his watch. Manuela Escobar has remained largely anonymous.
With Pablo on the lam and most of his extended family and associates killed or in jail, he was fighting for survival. The emasculated cartel, could offer no protection. He was flushed out of a Medellin residential area by Search Bloc and shot on December 2 1993. In death, however, his prophetic assertion, No drug dealer ever died of old age, had been painfully realized. He was 44 plus a day.
After his demise, Pablo’s vast wealth was reduced to a gruesome relic and the money secreted in Swiss bank accounts irretrievably lost. Bankers liquidated prized family estates. A 70,000-acre farm in Panama, estates in the Dominican Republic and 20-acre lots in Florida went at fire sale prices. Works of art, jewelry and precious stones went at a fraction of their value. The Hacienda Napoles, looted by treasure seekers, lay in moldering ruins, and the entire estate forfeited to the state. Unable to care for the animal denizens, the government mercifully turned them over other deserving zoos. The hippos have become feral, living and multiplying in the adjacent lakes and rivers. As the 17 antique cars and mansions quietly decomposed in the tropical moisture, they too serve as a poignant reminder of the futility of ill-gotten wealth – it decomposes as well.
Adapted from The Eloquence of Effort and available at: https://www.amazon.com/Eloquence-Effort-Beware-Least-Resistance/dp/0995344000
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