The country of Colombia has a rich history of cocaine trade. Today, there are more than a dozen big and small drug cartels working on the streets of Colombia. The most notable one is the Los Urabeños. But things were not quite the same as we have now. 30 years from now, there was only one man known as Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria or “El Patron” who ruled the cocaine industry for nearly two decades. He was killed on a rooftop in his hometown Medellin in the infamous encounter with the Colombian police. Today, we will share some the insane and fairly unknown facts about the King of Cocaine.
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Escobar was born in a peasant family and his mother was an elementary school teacher. Before getting into the drug trade, El patron allegedly sold stolen tombstones to smugglers and was in the business of stealing cars. His son, on the other hand, claims his father started his criminal career by selling counterfeit high school diplomas.
In the mid-1980s, during the height of his operations, his Medellin based cartel made an estimated $420 to $490 million a week, which sums almost up to $22 billion a year.
Escobar made it to the Forbes’ list of international billionaires in 1987. He remained on the list till his death in 1993. In 1989, he was listed as the seventh richest man in the world.
By the end of the 1980s, he and his cartel controlled 80% of the total world’s cocaine market. The other Colombian cartels were Cali cartel and Norte del Valle Cartel.
He and his syndicate were responsible for smuggling approximately 15 tons of cocaine in the US per day. The cartel originally imported most coke from Bolivia and Peru, processing it from Colombia in his labs and then distributing it through major trafficking routes of Florida, New York and California.
His influence on the U.S drug market was so extensive that four out of five American doing cocaine were using Escobar’s supplies.
At one point of time, he started to keep his large amount of wealth buried in pit holes in farming fields and dilapidated warehouses. According to his accountant and brother “Pablo was earning so much that each year we would write off 10% of the money because the rats would eat it in storage or it would be damaged by water or lost,”. Sometimes the total tolls up to $2.1 billion loss in profits each month, but that didn’t really matter.
According to a 2009, Don Juan magazine interview with Juan Pablo Escobar, his only son, who has since changed his name to Sebastian Marroqui-n, his father once torched $2 million bills just to keep his daughter and family warm while they were on the run.
Out of the many things that his son revealed, one spectacular claim was that the cartel spent an estimated $2,500 a month on rubber bands needed to hold huge stacks of bills together.
Despite of his brutality for the better part of his notorious career, he frequently distributed money through housing projects and other civic amenities, which gained him notable popularity among the poor. He was nicknamed “Robin Hood” after funding numerous programs to help Colombia’s poor residents. He gave money to churches and hospitals, established food programs, built parks and football stadiums, and also created a barrio.
After having a war with the government for several years, he finally decided to surrender. But it wasn’t a normal one. He cut a deal with the Colombian government that he will stop mass bombings on Colombian streets and surrender, but in favor, he will be in a self governed prison surrounded by his sicarios and no state official can intervene. The jail became to be known as “la catedral” meaning the cathedral. His luxurious jail housed a casino, a nightclub, and even a spa.
Escobar was responsible for killing about 4000 government officials, including an estimation of 200 judges, 1000 police workers, journalists. His methods were bold and eliminate anyone who stands in his way after the initial bribe offering.
You believe it or not, in an outrageous attempt to change the laws of extradition in Colombia, Escobar offered to pay off Colombia’s international debt, which at that time was estimated to be nearly 10 billion dollars.
During the surge in his exports, Escobar and his cartel encountered a rare type of cash flow problem. The profits from cocaine exports were getting huge and much bigger was getting the amount of cash they now have to smuggle back to Colombia. To solve this issue, he bought a Learjet just for his cash transport. Problem solved.
Escobar’s business was so immense and big in addition to planes, helicopters, cars, trucks, and boats, he even bought two Narco-submarines for transporting his cocaine into the U.S.
Among the possessions that authorities found in Escobar’s home was a Spanish translation of the self-help classic, The Power Of Positive Thinking.
Pablo Escobar’s greatest fear was extradition. No matter what happened, he didn’t want to spend a day of his life in an American jail cell.
The biggest single cocaine shipment Escobar ever made to the United States weighed a whopping 51,000 pounds.
Escobar used his extraordinary wealth, power and popularity to get himself elected to Colombia’s Congress. It is generally believed that the main reason behind his approach towards politics was the fear of extradition, and only his influence in the country’s House of Representatives and Senate can revert it. This was undoubtedly the biggest mistake Pablo Escobar had ever made.
Escobar is said to have smuggled cocaine into plane landing gear and tires. To safely export the cocaine, he devised many different ways including this one. Depending on how much quantity pilots convey, they could earn as much $500,000 per day.
When questioned about the essence of the cocaine business, Escobar replied with “the business is simple: you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back”.
During his time in La Cathedral, Pablo Escobar ran his drug empire with the help of General Noriega. Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno, the military dictator of the state of Panama was a key player on the behalf of the Medellin cartel until his surrender in 1989. On a different note, while there is no definite proof, but there is a possibility that he also had close relations with Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega.
He worked to implement an effective, inescapable policy for dealing with law enforcement and the government, referred to as “plata o plomo” or “silver or lead”. He was allegedly responsible for the 1989 murder of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, favorite in the 1990 Colombian presidential election, as well as for the bombing of Avianca Flight 203 and the 1989 DAS Building bombing in Bogotá.