Colombian Pablo Escobar grew up in a poor family, but became one of the richest and most powerful people in the world. Not through hard work and making a living out of money, but through his worldwide cocaine trade. Escobar was born in 1949. In the 1980s, he earned up to $ 61 million a day as a drug lord. Despite his criminal activities, he was loved by the poor. In the slums of Colombian Medellin, he had hundreds of new houses built for the impoverished residents. Escobar was eventually shot during his arrest in 1993. Below are 10 facts about the greatest drug lord of the 20th century.
1. Escobar wanted to become president of Colombia
Pablo Escobar grew up in a poor family. His father was a poor farmer, his mother a simple teacher. However, Pablo had big plans for his future. Already in his teens he delved into crime. He made his first money stealing gravestones, which he sandblasted to remove the names of the deceased. He then sold the tombstones to Panamanian smugglers. Escobar was overflowing with ambition: he wanted to be a millionaire at the age of 22 and also to become president of Colombia.
2. He started small
Even an ambitious criminal like Escobar had to start as a petty thief. In the beginning he stole cars, sold smuggled cigarettes and sold fake lottery tickets. Nor did he shy away from kidnapping: the kidnapping of a manager in Medellin earned him $ 100,000 in ransom. He started drug trafficking in the 1970s. Medellin’s local drug lord, Fabio Restrepo, was murdered in 1975. From then on, Escobar built up a drug empire from Medellin.
3. 80 tons of cocaine per month
Soon, Pablo organized 80% of cocaine smuggling to the United States. He had an eye for quality: the cocaine he traded turned out to be of a much better quality than the average Colombian cocaine. At its peak, 70 to 80 tons of cocaine were smuggled into the United States every month. Aircraft (Escobar initially flew himself) were used for smuggling, as well as helicopters and even remotely piloted submarines.
4. $ 1,000 in rubber bands per week
It is hard to imagine how much money Pablo Escobar made with his cocaine trade. During his best years, Escobar made about $ 60 million a day. He packed his warehouses with banknotes, 10% of which were eaten by rats or attacked by water. He also made a fire with $ 2 million in bills because his daughter was cold. And then again, the cartel spent about $ 1,000 a week on rubber bands to tie the banknotes together, so much money came in!
5. Silver or lead
At Pablo Escobar, it was all or nothing. Either he bribed you and cooperated with him or you refused to cooperate with him and you were murdered. Hence his expression ‘plata o plomo’: silver or lead. He bribed you figuratively with silver coins, or you got a lead bullet in your body. The number of murders that Escobar had carried out is not small. It is estimated that Pablo had directly or indirectly killed some 8,000 people.
What was Escabor supposed to do with so much money? Buying your own zoo, for example. Near the Colombian town of Puerto Triunfo, he bought a 20 square kilometer plot of land, built his Naples Estate on it. He had a lake built and started his own animal shelter with exotic animals. All intended as recreation for himself and his family. He also regularly held parties to which powerful Colombian politicians and other famous figures were invited. Of course drugs were also distributed at these parties – after all, he had no shortage of cocaine…
Fun fact, thanks to the Escobar Zoo, hippos can now be found in Colombia. All animals were moved to other zoos, except for the four hippos. Meanwhile, there are more than 50 and are starting to pose a real problem to the ecosystem.
7. The Robin Hood of the Colombians
Escobar may have been one of the richest people on the planet , but he had a heart for the poor and homeless people (or at least pretended). He had houses for the poor built in Medellin. He spent millions on schools, parks, football stadiums, hospitals and churches in his country. For the Colombian poor, he was not a criminal, but a kind of Robin Hood. With the support of the poor, he made it quite far in politics. In 1982 he was elected a member of parliament. However, this did not last long: his opponents made sure that his political career was over less than a year later.
8. The client of terrible attacks
Pablo Escobar wanted to get rid of Colombian presidential candidate Cesar Gaviria. That is why he had a bomb placed on flight 203 of the Colombian airline Avianca. Luckily, Cesar Gaviria was not on this plane, but 110 other passengers died as a result of the bombing. Gaviria was nevertheless elected President of Colombia. In 1993, a bomb exploded in the basements of the World Trade Center in New York. Escobar was also suspected of that bomb attack, but his involvement has never been proven.
9. A luxury cell for a serious criminal
The Gaviria government decided to take measures against drug trafficking and the crimes of Escobar. In exchange for a reduced sentence and good treatment, he surrendered and was locked up in a very luxurious private prison “La Catedral”. It did not make Escobar repent – quite the contrary. Pablo quietly continued to lead his drug cartel from his comfortable prison. The authorities therefore wanted to transfer him to another prison, but Escobar fled before that.
10. The Death of Pablo Escobar
In 1992 there was a lot of searching for the hiding Escobar. Two groups were diligently looking for him: a Colombian command specially trained by the United States, and relatives of people he had killed. On December 2, 1993, the time had come: the command discovered Escobar’s hideout. Pablo fled, but was fired upon and killed. Some claim that he was able to flee to the roof of his refuge and shoot a bullet through his head.