Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was a Columbian drug lord and leader of one of the most powerful criminal organizations ever assembled. During the height of his power in the 1980’s, he controlled a vast empire of drugs and murder that covered the globe. He made billions of dollars, ordered the murder of hundreds if not thousands of people, and ruled over a personal empire of mansions, airplanes, a private zoo and even his own army of soldiers and hardened criminals.
Born on December 1, 1949 into a lower-middle class family, young Pablo grew up in the Medellín suburb of Envigado. As a young man, he was driven and ambitious, telling friends and family that he wanted to be President of Colombia some day. He got his start as a street criminal: according to legend, he would steal tombstones, sandblast the names off of them, and resell them to crooked Panamanians. Later, he moved up to stealing cars. It was in the 1970’s that he found his path to wealth and power: drugs. He would buy coca paste in Bolivia and Peru, refine it, and transport it for sale in the US.
In 1975, a local Medellín drug lord named Fabio Restrepo was murdered, reportedly on the orders of Escobar himself. Stepping into the power vacuum, Escobar took over Restrepo’s organization and expanded his operations. Before long, he controlled all crime in Medellín and was responsible for as much as 80% of the cocaine transported into the United States. In 1982, he was elected to Columbia’s Congress. With economic, criminal and political power, Escobar’s rise was complete.
Escobar’s ruthlessness was legendary. His rise was opposed by many honest politicians, judges and policemen, who did not like the growing influence of this street thug. Escobar had a way of dealing with his enemies: he called it “plata o plomo,” literally, silver or lead. Usually, if a politician, judge or policeman got in his way, he would first attempt to bribe them, and if that didn’t work, he would order them killed, occasionally...
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