Pablo Escobar was a notorious Colombian drug lord whose empire grew to such lengths that he became one of the most powerful men in the world. Here are 10 interesting facts about this extremely wealthy and influential criminal.
#1 He wanted to become the President of Colombia
Pablo Escobar was born in Rionegro in Colombia. His father was a farmer and his mother was an elementary school teacher. But Pablo had other plans. On the streets of Medellin he started his criminal career in his teens. It is said he used to steal tombstones, sandblast the names of them and sell them to smugglers in Panama. Pablo was ambitious from the beginning. He used to tell his friends that he would be a millionaire by the time he was 22. He also wanted to become the President of Colombia.
#2 He started as a small thief
Before becoming a drug lord, Pablo stole cars, sold contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets and even kidnapped a Medellin executive, earning $100,000 as ransom. In 1970s Pablo entered the drug trade. In 1975 he got the local drug lord Fabio Restrepo murdered, took over his organization and expanded operations. Soon Escobar controlled all crime in Medellin and was responsible for 80% of the cocaine that was transported to the United States.
#3 Escobar smuggled 80 tonnes of cocaine per month to the United States
At first Pablo smuggled cocaine in old plane tires and a pilot could earn as much as 500,000 pounds depending on the amount smuggled. It is estimated that at one point 70 to 80 tonnes of cocaine was being smuggled every month from Colombia to the United States by Pablo. Apart from planes, two small remote controlled submarines were used to smuggle the massive load.
#4 He spent $2500 a month just to purchase rubber bands to wrap his money
At the height of its power, the Medellin drug cartel was smuggling 15 tonnes of cocaine per day, worth more than half a million dollars, just to the United States. Escobar became one of the wealthiest men in the world. Having more illegal money than he could deposit in banks, he stored bricks of cash in the warehouse where 10% of it was lost because rats would eat it or it would be damaged by water. His accountant said that they spent $2500 a month just to purchase rubber bands to wrap around the cash. By the mid- 1980’s, Pablo Escobar was one of the most powerful men in the world. In 1989 Forbes magazine listed him as the seventh-richest man in the world with a personal wealth of close to $25 billion. He could kill anyone, anywhere, anytime.
#5 Escobar dealt with his enemies through his policy of ‘plata o plomo’
Pablo Escobar way of dealing with his enemies was “plata o plomo“, meaning silver or lead. If someone got in his way he would first bribe him and if it didn’t work then that person was ordered to be killed. Escobar was responsible for killing a Colombian presidential candidates, an attorney general, a justice minister, more than 200 judges, over 1000 police officers and dozens of journalists.
#6 He built a zoo and a lake for his family’s recreation
Near the small north-western Colombian town of Puerto Triunfo, Escobar purchased 20 square kilometers of land which included Hacienda Napoles. He built there a zoo, a lake and other things for his and his family’s recreation. It is said that this place hosted drug fueled parties where Colombia’s most powerful and most beautiful people gathered. Now this paradise is in ruins with refugees and hippos inhabiting the area.
#7 He had an image of Robin Hood among poor people
Escobar had the image of a Robin Hood among the poor people. He spent millions on parks, schools, football stadiums, hospitals and churches in western Colombia. He even distributed money to the poor through housing projects and other civic activities. In 1982, Escobar was elected as a deputy/alternative representative to the House of Representatives of Colombia’s Congress.
#8 He was suspected for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center
Escobar was responsible for bombing Avianca Flight 203. He wanted to kill the presidential candidate for the 1990 elections, Cesar Gaviria. 110 people were killed due to this attack. Gaviria, was however not on the plane and would go on to become the President of Colombia. Escobar was also suspected in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He was however offended by this and sent a note to the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia stating that if he had done it he would have declared why he did it and what he wanted.
#9 He was confined in a luxurious prison
After assassination of a presidential candidate, the Gaviria government started to act against Escobar and the drug cartel. They convinced him to surrender in exchange for a reduced sentence and good treatment in prison. Escobar was confined in a luxurious private prison which was known as La Catedral. He continued his criminal activities from within La Catedral and hence the authorities planned to shift him to another cell. Pablo however discovered the plan and made an unhurried escape.
#10 Pablo Escobar was killed by a US-trained Colombian task force
By late 1992, there were two organizations searching for Pablo Escobar: the Search Bloc, a special, US-trained Colombian task force, and “Los Pepes,” a shadowy organization of Escobar’s enemies, made up of family members of his victims and financed by Escobar’s main business rival, the Cali Cartel. On 2 December 1993, Search Bloc found Escobar’s hiding place and he was killed in the resulting shootout with a gunshot in his leg, torso and a fatal one in his ear. Some people believe that he committed suicide while others say he was shot by a policeman. Two feature films on Escobar were announced in 2007: Escobar, a movie on his life, and Killing Pablo about how he was hunted and killed.