The 800 Pound Pablo in the Room

Well, he ain't in the room any more.  Not since 1993 when he used the wrong phone and found out that it was already being traced as the helicopters circled his last hideout and as the Federal troops crashed up the stairs.  He escaped to the roof where he was shot by waiting police, and tumbled to the alleyway below.  Dead.  The genius behind the cartel was dead.  The one-time third richest man in the world was dead.

Pablo Escobar was born in  1947 in the next town over, Rio Negro.  He started out as a petty criminal, but an ingenious one.  His racket was to steal grave stones, sandblast them and resell them.  Later on he just smiled when asked if this were true. Like other stories about him no one is quite sure.

He worked for a local cocaine runner and eventually murdered his way to the top.  He wiped out rival gangs and intimidated or killed the middlemen, the chemists and the growers until he was all there was.  His motto was "Plomo o Plata", lead or money.  He gave the rest of the underworld a choice.

So like most gang leaders his murders were against people already in the trade.  Only later would he begin killing as a terrorist with car bombs in shopping centers and the downing of an Avianca passenger jet, and an invasion of the Central Courts in Bogota and assassinations of presidential candidates, lawyers, witnesses, and cops on the street.  You see, he was afraid of only one thing- extradition to the United States.  Only in the US could he be tried and incarcerated.  In Colombia this was impossible.  To avoid extradition he had to make sure no such laws were entered in the constitution of Colombia.  He wiped out anyone who threatened to legalize extradition to the US.  His frenzy was heightened when George Bush declared cocaine traffic a threat to the national security of the US.

After his death the Cartel slowly fell apart and the narcotraffick today is controlled by smaller gangs and they are incessantly targeted and decapitated.  Yet it goes on..why?  Because AMERICA has a drug problem, Colombia doesn't. More American gang members are killed over drugs and turf than Colombians by far.  By far!!!  BUT It is too lucrative to die.  Why?  Because the War on Drugs increases the street price in the US.  The US is so close-minded on this that it just can't politically declare cocaine use the medical problem that it is and decriminalize the posession of the white stuff and crack.

Clearly spraying the peasants in the field has not stopped the drug trafficking.  Neither has interdiction at the border, and you can take Nancy Reagan and "Just Say No" and throw it in the trash along with other right wing fanatic attempts at "education".

So what has happened to Pablo's memory in Colombia?  Yes he was a criminal of the highest order, but, tweaking the nose of the Gringo Government is a good thing for a change.  His public works were a good thing..churches , soccer stadia, many many houses for the poor built on US drug money.  And in the US we have award-winning books, stupid films, sensationalist TV shows, magazine articles,,,all about Pablo all of which throw mud on all of the people of Colombia.

So Pablo is dead for two decades.  Medellin is as safe as any large city.  It was even safe back then because the violence was confined to very small parts of the population.  But now with the Cartel gone, Medellin can go on and upwards because the eyes of foreign investors and tourists are becoming slowly opened to this gorgeous place and its fine people.  There is the edge that an unsavory history can bring to a place to make it more interesting.  Think of Berlin.  Think of Chicago.  Think of Ho Chi Minh City.  In Medellin the edge is amplified because of the great and positve changes that have taken place since Pablo was killed.


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