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There was no more exciting place in South America to be in April 1948 than Bogotá, Colombia. Change was in the air, a static charge awaiting direction. No one knew exactly what it would be, only that it was at hand. It was a moment in the life of a nation, perhaps even a continent, when all of history seemed a prelude.
Bogotá was then a city of more than a million that spilled down the side of green mountains into a wide savanna. It was bordered by steep peaks to the north and east, and opened up flat and empty to the south and west. Arriving by air, one would see nothing below for hours but mountains, row upon row of emerald peaks, the highest of them capped white. Light hit the flanks of the undulating ranges at different angles, creating shifting shades of chartreuse, sage, and ivy, all of them cut with red-brown tributaries that gradually merged and widened as they coursed downhill to river valleys so deep in shadow they were almost blue. Then abruptly from these virgin ranges emerged a fully modern metropolis, a great blight of concrete covering most of a wide plain. Most of Bogotá was just two or three stories high, with a preponderance of red brick. From the center north, it had wide landscaped avenues, with museums, classic cathedrals, and graceful old mansions to rival the most elegant urban neighborhoods in the world, but to the south and west were the beginnings of shantytowns where refugees from the ongoing violence in the jungles and mountains sought refuge, employment, and hope and instead found only deadening poverty.
In the north part ofthecity, far from this squalor, a great meeting was about to convene, the Ninth Inter-American Conference. Foreign ministers from all countries of the hemisphere were there to sign the charter for the Organization of American States, a new coalition sponsored by the United States that was designed to give more voice and prominence to the nations of Central and South America. The city had been spruced up for the event, with street cleanings and trash removal, fresh coats of paint on public buildings, new signage on roadways, and, along the avenues, colorful flags and plantings. Even the shoe-shine men on the street corners wore new uniforms. The officials who attended meetings and parties in this surprisingly urbane capital hoped that the new organization would bring order and respectability to the struggling republics of the region. But the event had also attracted critics, leftist agitators, among them a young Cuban student leader named Fidel Castro. To them the fledgling OAS was a sop, a sellout, an alliance with the gringo imperialists of the north. To idealists who had gathered from all over the region, the postwar world was still up for grabs, a contest between capitalism and communism, or at least socialism, and young rebels like the twenty-one-year-old Castro anticipated a decade of revolution. They would topple the region's calcified fuedal aristocracies and establish peace, social justice, and an authentic Pan-American political bloc. They were hip, angry, and smart, and they believed with the certainty of youth that they owned the future. They came to Bogotá to denounce the new organization and had planned a hemispheric conference of their own to coordinate citywide protests. They looked for guidance from one man in particular, an enormously popular forty-nine-year-old Colombian politician named Jorge Eliécer Gaitán.
"I am not a man, I am a people!" was Gaitán's slogan, which he would pronounce dramatically at the end of speeches to bring his ecstatic admirers to their feet. He was of mixed blood, a man with the education and manner of the country's white elite but the squat frame, dark skin, broad face, and coarse black hair of Colombia's lower Indian castes. Gaitán's appearance marked him as an outsider, a man of the masses. He could never fully belong to the small, select group of the wealthy and fair-skinned who owned most of the nation's land and natural resources, and who for generations had dominated its government. These families ran the mines, owned the oil, and grew the fruits, coffee, and vegetables that made up the bulk of Colombia's export economy. With the help of technology and capital offered by powerful U.S. corporate investors, they had grown rich selling the nation's great natural bounty to America and Europe, and they had used those riches to import to Bogotá a sophistication that rivaled the great capitals of the world. Gaitán's skin color marked him as apart from them just as it connected him with the excluded, the others, the masses of Colombian people who were considered inferior, who were locked out of the riches of this export economy and its privileged islands of urban prosperity. But that connection had given Gaitán power. No matter how educated and powerful he became, he was irrevocably tied to those others, whose only option was work in the mines or the fields at subsistence wages, who had no chance for education and opportunity for a better life. They constituted a vast electoral majority.
Times were bad. In the cities it meant inflation and high unemployment, while in the mountain and jungle villages that made up most of Colombia it meant no work, hunger, and starvation. Protests by angry campesinos, encouraged and led by Marxist agitators, had grown increasingly violent. The country's Conservative Party leadership and its sponsors, wealthy landowners and miners, had responded with draconian methods. There were massacres and summary executions. Many foresaw this cycle of protest and repression leading to another bloody civil war—the Marxists saw it as the inevitable revolt. But most Colombians were neither Marxists nor oligarchs; they just wanted peace. They wanted change, not war. To them, this was Gaitán's promise. It had made him wildly popular.
In a speech two months earlier before a crowd of one hundred thousand at the Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá, Gaitán had pleaded with the government to restore order, and had urged the great crowd before him to express their outrage and self-control by responding to his oration not with cheers and applause but with silence. He had addressed his remarks directly to President Mariano Ospina.
"We ask that the persecution by the authorities stop," he'd said. "Thus asks this immense multitude. We ask a small but great thing: that our political struggles be governed by the constitution.... Señor President, stop the violence. We want human life to be defended, that is the least a people can ask.... Our flag is in mourning, this silent multitude, this mute cry from our hearts, asks only that you treat us ... as you would have us treat you."
Against a backdrop of such explosive forces, the silence of this throng had echoed much more loudly than cheers. Many in the crowd had simply waved white handkerchiefs. At great rallies like these, Gaitán seemed poised to lead Colombia to a lawful, just, peaceful future. He tapped the deepest yearnings of his countrymen.
A skillful lawyer and a socialist, he was, in the words of a CIA report prepared years later, "a staunch antagonist of oligarchical rule and a spellbinding orator." He was also a shrewd politician who had turned his populist appeal into real political power. When the OAS conference convened in Bogotá in 1948, Gaitán was not only the people's favorite, he was the head of the Liberal Party, one of the country's two major political organizations. His election as president in 1950 was regarded as a virtual certainty. Yet the Conservative Party government, headed by President Ospina, had left Gaitán off the bipartisan delegation appointed to represent Colombia at the great conference.
Tensions were high in the city. Colombian historian German Arciniegas would later write of "a chill wind of terror blowing in from the provinces." The day before the conference convened, a mob attacked a car carrying the Ecuadorian delegation, and rumors of terrorist violence seemed confirmed the same day when police caught a worker attempting to plant a bomb in the capital. In the midst of all the hubbub, Gaitán quietly went about his law practice. He knew his moment was still a few years off, and he was prepared to wait. The president's snub had only enhanced his stature among his supporters, as well as among the more radical young leftists gathering to protest, who otherwise might have dismissed Gaitán as a bourgeois liberal with a vision too timid for their ambition. Castro had made an appointment to meet with him.
Gaitán busied himself with defending an army officer accused of murder, and on April 8, the day the conference convened, he won an acquittal. Late the next morning, some journalists and friends stopped by his office to offer congratulations. They chatted happily, arguing about where to go for lunch and who would pay. Shortly before one o'clock, Gaitán walked down to the street with the small group. He had two hours before the scheduled meeting with Castro.
Leaving the building, the group walked past a fat, dirty, unshaven man who let them pass and then ran to overtake them. The man, Juan Roa, stopped and without a word leveled a handgun. Gaitán briskly turned and started back toward the safety of his office building. Roa began shooting. Gaitán fell with wounds to his head, lungs, and liver, and died within the hour as doctors tried desperately to save him.
Gaitán's murder is where the modern history of Colombia starts. There would be many theories about Roa—that he had been recruited by the CIA or by Gaitán's conservative enemies, or even by Communist extremists who feared that their revolution would be postponed by Gaitán's ascension. In Colombia, murder rarely has a shortage of plausible motives. An independent investigation by officers of Scotland Yard determined that Roa, a frustrated mystic with grandiose delusions, had nursed a grudge against Gaitán and had acted alone; but since he was beaten to death on the spot, his motives died with him. Whatever Roa's purpose, the rounds he fired unleashed chaos. All hope for a peaceful future in Colombia ended. All those brooding forces of change exploded into El Bogotazo, a spasm of rioting so intense it left large parts of the capital city ablaze before spreading to other cities. Many policemen, devotees of the slain leader, joined the angry mobs in the streets, as did student revolutionaries like Castro. The leftists donned red armbands and tried to direct the crowds, sensing with excitement that their moment had arrived, but quickly realized that the situation was beyond control. The mobs grew larger and larger, and protest evolved into random destruction, drunkenness, and looting. Ospina called in the army, which in some places fired into the crowds.
Everyone's vision of the future died with Gaitán. The official effort to showcase a new era of stability and cooperation was badly tarnished; the visiting foreign delegations signed the charter and fled the country. The leftists' hopes of igniting South America's new communist era went up in flames. Castro took shelter in the Cuban embassy as the army began hunting down and arresting leftist agitators, who were blamed for the uprising, but even a CIA history of the event would conclude that the leftists were as much victims as everyone else. For Castro, an agency historian wrote, the episode was profoundly disillusioning: "[It] may have influenced his adoption in Cuba in the 1950s of a guerrilla strategy rather than one of revolution through urban disorders."
El Bogotazo was eventually quieted in Bogotá and the other large cities, but it lived on throughout untamed Colombia for years, metamorphosing into a nightmarish period of bloodletting so empty of meaning it is called simply La Violencia. An estimated two hundred thousand people were killed. Most of the dead were campesinos, incited to violence by appeals to religious fervor, land rights, and a bewildering assortment of local issues. While Castro carried off his revolution in Cuba and the rest of the world squared off in the Cold War, Colombia remained locked in this cabalistic dance with death. Private and public armies terrorized the rural areas. The government fought paramilitiaries and guerrillas, industrialists fought unionists, conservative Catholics fought heretical liberals, and bandidos took advantage of the free-for-all to plunder. Gaitán's death had unleashed demons that had less to do with the emerging modern world than with Colombia's deeply troubled past.
Colombia is a land that breeds outlaws. It has always been ungovernable, a nation of wild unsullied beauty, steeped in mystery. From the white peaks of the three cordilleras that form its western spine to the triple-canopy equatorial jungle at sea level, it affords many good places to hide. There are corners of Colombia still virtually untouched by man. Some are among the only places left on this thoroughly trampled planet where botanists and biologists can discover and attach their names to new species of plants, insects, birds, reptiles, and even small mammals.
The ancient cultures that flourished here were isolated and stubborn. With soil so rich and a climate so varied and mild, everything grew, so there was little need for trade or commerce. The land ensnared one like a sweet, tenacious vine. Those who came stayed. It took the Spanish almost two hundred years to subdue just one people, the Tairona, who lived in a lush pocket of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta foothills. European invaders eventually defeated them the only way they could, by killing them all. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Spanish tried without success to rule from neighboring Peru, and in the nineteenth century Simón Bolívar tried to join Colombia with Peru and Venezuela to form a great South American state, Gran Colombia. But even the great liberator could not hold the pieces together.
Ever since Bolívar's death in 1830, Colombia has been proudly democratic, but it has never quite got the hang of peaceful political evolution. Its government is weak, by design and tradition. In vast regions to the south and west, and even in the mountain villages outside the major cities, live communities only lightly touched by nation, government, or law. The sole civilizing influence ever to reach the whole country was the Catholic Church, and that was accomplished only because clever Jesuits grafted their Roman mysteries to ancient rituals and beliefs. Their hope was to grow a hybrid faith, nursing Christianity from pagan roots to a locally flavored version of the One True Faith, but in stubborn Colombia, it was Catholicism that took a detour. It grew into something else, a faith rich with ancestral connection, fatalism, superstition, magic, mystery ... and violence.
Violence stalks Colombia like a biblical plague. The nation's two major political factions, the Liberals and Conservatives, fought eight civil wars in the nineteenth century alone over the roles of church and state. Both groups were overwhelmingly Catholic, but the Liberals wanted to keep the priests off the public stage. The worst of these conflicts, which began in 1899 and was called the War of a Thousand Days, left more than one hundred thousand dead and utterly ruined whatever national government and economy existed.
Caught between these two violent forces, the Colombian peasantry learned to fear and distrust both. They found heroes in the outlaws who roamed the Colombian wilderness as violent free agents, defying everyone. During the War of a Thousand Days the most famous was José del Carmen Tejeiro, who played upon popular hatred of the warring powers. Tejeiro would not just steal from wealthy landowning enemies; he would punish and humiliate them, forcing them to sign declarations such as "I was whipped fifty times by José del Carmen Tejeiro as retribution for persecuting him." His fame earned him supporters beyond Colombia's borders. Venezuelan dictator Juan Vicente Gómez, sowing a little neighborhood instability, presented Tejeiro with a gold-studded carbine.
A half century later, La Violencia bred a new colorful menagerie of outlaws, men who went by names like Tarzan, Desquite (Revenge), Tirofijo (Sureshot), Sangrenegra (Blackblood), and Chispas (Sparks). They roamed the countryside, robbing, pillaging, raping, and killing, but because they were allied with none of the major factions, their crimes were seen by many common people as blows struck against power.
La Violencia eased only when General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla seized power in 1953 and established a military dictatorship. He lasted five years before being ousted by more democratic military officers. A national plan was put in place for Liberals and Conservatives to share the government, alternating the presidency every four years. It was a system guaranteed to prevent any real reforms or government-initiated social progress, because any steps taken during one administration could be undone in the next. The famous bandidos went on raiding and stealing in the hills, and occasionally made halfhearted attempts to band together. In the end they were not idealists or revolutionaries, just outlaws. Still, a generation of Colombians grew up on their exploits. The bandidos were heroes despite themselves to many of the powerless, terrorized, and oppressed poor. The nation both thrilled and mourned as the army of the oligarchs in Bogotá hunted them down, one by one. By the 1960s Colombia had settled into an enforced stasis, with Marxist guerrillas in the hills and jungles (modern successors to the bandido tradition) and a central government increasingly dominated by a small group of rich, elite Bogotá families, powerless to effect change and, anyway, disinclined. The violence, already deeply rooted in the culture, continued, deepened, twisted.
Terror became art, a form of psychological warfare with a quasi-religious aesthetic. In Colombia it wasn't enough to hurt or even kill your enemy; there was ritual to be observed. Rape had to be performed in public, before fathers, mothers, husbands, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. And before you killed a man, you first made him beg, scream, and gag ... or first you killed those he most loved before his eyes. To amplify revulsion and fear, victims were horribly mutilated and left on display. Male victims had their genitals stuffed in their mouths; women had their breasts cut off and their wombs stretched over their heads. Children were killed not by accident but slowly, with pleasure. Severed heads were left on pikes along public roadways. Colombian killers perfected signature cuts, distinctive ways of mutilating victims. One gang left its mark by slicing the neck of a victim and then pulling his tongue down his throat and out through the slice, leaving a grotesque "necktie." These horrors seldom directly touched the educated urbanites of Colombia's ruling classes, but the waves of fear widened and reached everywhere. No child raised in Colombia at midcentury was immune to it. Blood flowed like the muddy red waters that rushed down from the mountains. The joke Colombians told was that God had made their land so beautiful, so rich in every natural way, that it was unfair to the rest of the world; He had evened the score by populating it with the most evil race of men.
It was here, in the second year of La Violencia, that the greatest outlaw in history, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, was born, on December 1, 1949. He grew up with the cruelty and terror alive in the hills around his native Medellín, and absorbed the stories of Desquite, Sangrenegra, and Tirofijo, all of them full-blown legends by the time he was old enough to listen and understand, most of them still alive and on the run. Pablo would outstrip them all by far.
Anyone can be a criminal, but to be an outlaw demands a following. The outlaw stands for something, usually through no effort of his own. No matter how base the actual motives of criminals like those in the Colombian hills, or like the American ones immortalized by Hollywood—Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, Jesse James—large numbers of average people rooted for them and followed their bloody exploits with some measure of delight. Their acts, however selfish or senseless, were invested with social meaning. Their crimes and violence were blows struck against distant, oppressive power. Their stealth and cunning in avoiding soldiers and police were celebrated, these being the time-honored tactics of the powerless.
Pablo Escobar would build on these myths. While the other outlaws remained strictly local heroes, meaningful only as symbols, his power would become both international and real. At his peak, he would threaten to usurp the Colombian state. Forbes magazine would list him as the seventh-richest man in the world in 1989. His violent reach would make him the most feared terrorist in the world.
His success would owe much to his nation's unique culture and history, indeed to its very soil and climate, with its bountiful harvests of coca and marijuana. But an equal part of it was Pablo himself. Unlike any other outlaw before, he understood the potency of legend. He crafted his and nurtured it. He was a vicious thug, but he had a social conscience. He was a brutal crime boss but also a politician with a genuinely winning personal style that, at least for some, transcended the ugliness of his deeds. He was shrewd and arrogant and rich enough to milk that popularity. He had, in the words of former Colombian president César Gaviria, "a kind of native genius for public relations." At his death, Pablo was mourned by thousands. Crowds rioted when his casket was carried into the streets of his home city of Medellín. People pushed the bearers aside and pried open the lid to touch his cold, stiff face. His gravesite is tended lovingly to this day and remains one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. He stood for something.
For what, exactly, isn't easy to understand without knowing Colombia and his life and times. Pablo, too, was a creature of his time and place. He was a complex, contradictory, and ultimately very dangerous man, in large part because of his genius for manipulating public opinion. But this same crowd-pleasing quality was also his weakness, the thing that eventually brought him down. A man of lesser ambition might still be alive, rich, powerful, and living well and openly in Medellín. But Pablo wasn't content to be just rich and powerful. He wanted to be admired. He wanted to be respected. He wanted to be loved.
When he was a small boy, his mother, Hermilda, the real shaping influence in his life, made a vow before a statue in her home village of Frontino, in the rural northwest part of the Colombian departamento, or state, of Antioquia. The statue, an icon, was of the child Jesus of Atocha. Hermilda Gaviria was a schoolteacher, an ambitious, educated, and unusually capable woman for that time and place, who had married Abel de Jesús Escobar, a self-sufficient cattle farmer. Pablo was their second son, and she had already borne Abel a daughter. They would eventually have four more children. But Hermilda was cursed with powerlessness. For all her learning and drive, she knew that the fates of her ambition and her family were out of her hands. She knew this not just in some abstract, spiritual way, the way religious men and women accept the final authority of God. This was Colombia in the 1950s. The horror of La Violencia was everywhere. Unlike the relatively secure cities, in villages like Frontino and the one where Hermilda and Abel now lived, Rionegro, violent and terrible death was commonplace. The Escobars were not revolutionaries; they were staunchly middle class. To the extent that they had political leanings, they were allied with local Conservative landowners, which made them targets for the Liberal armies and insurrectionists who roamed the hills. Hermilda sought protection and solace from the child Jesus of Atocha with the urgency of a young wife and mother adrift in a sea of terror. In her prayers she vowed something concrete and grand. Someday, she said, she would build a chapel for Jesus of Atocha if God spared her family from the Liberals. Pablo would build that chapel.
Pablo did not grow up poor, as he and his hired publicists would sometimes later claim. Rionegro was not yet a suburb of Medellín, but a collection of relatively prosperous cattle farms in the outlying districts. Abel owned a house, twelve hectares, and six cows when Pablo was born, and he tended adjacent land that he had sold to a well-known local Conservative politician. The house had no electricity but did have running water. For rural Colombia, this would qualify as upper middle class, and conditions improved when they moved to Envigado, a village on the outskirts of Medellín, a thriving city that was rapidly creeping up the green slopes of the mountains around it. Hermilda was not just a schoolteacher but a founder of Envigado's elementary school. When they moved there, Abel gave up his farming to work as a neighborhood watchman. Hermilda was an important person in the community, someone well-known to parents and children alike. So even as schoolchildren, Pablo and his brothers and sisters were special. Pablo did well in his classes, as his mother no doubt expected, and he loved to play soccer. He was well dressed and, as his chubby frame attested, well fed. Escobar liked fast food, movies, and popular music—American, Mexican, and Brazilian.
While there was still violence in Colombia, even as he entered his teens, the raging terror of La Violencia gradually eased. Abel and Hermilda Escobar emerged from it all to create a comfortable life for themselves and their seven children. But just as the prosperity of the fifties in the United States bred a restless, rebellious generation of children, so Pablo and his contemporaries in Medellín had their own way of tuning in, turning on, and dropping out. A hippielike, nihilistic, countrywide youth movement called Nadaismo had its origins right in Envigado, where its founder, the intellectual Fernando Gonzáles, had written his manifesto "The Right to Disobey." Banned by the church, barely tolerated by authorities, the Nadaistas— the "nothingists"—lampooned their elders in song, dressed and behaved outrageously, and expressed their disdain for the established order in the established way of the sixties: they smoked dope.
Colombian dope was, of course, plentiful and highly potent, a fact that the world's marijuana-toking millions quickly discovered. It was soon the worldwide gold standard for pot. Pablo became a heavy doper early on and stayed that way throughout his life, sleeping until one or two in the afternoon, lighting up not long after waking up, and staying stoned for the rest of the day and night. He was plump and short, standing just under five feet, six inches, with a large, round face and thick, black, curly hair that he wore long, combing it left to right in a big mound that sloped across his forehead and covered his ears. He grew a wispy mustache. He looked out at the world through big, heavy-lidded hazel eyes and cultivated the bemused boredom of the chronic doper. Rebellion evidently took hold not long after he reached puberty. He dropped out of Lyceum Lucrecio Jaramillo several months before his seventeenth birthday, three years shy of graduation. His turn to crime appears to have been motivated as much by ennui as ambition.
With his cousin and constant companion Gustavo Gaviria, he had taken to hanging out nights at a bar in a tough neighborhood, the Jesús de Nazareno district. He told Hermilda that he wasn't cut out for school or a normal job. "I want to be big," he said. It was a testament to Hermilda's persistence, or possibly Pablo's broader plans, that he never fully abandoned the idea of education. He briefly returned to the lyceum two years later with Gustavo, but the two, older than their classmates and accustomed now to the freedom and rough-and-tumble of the Medellín streets, were considered bullies and were soon fighting with their teachers. Neither lasted the school year, although Pablo apparently tried several times, without success, to pass the tests needed to earn a diploma. He eventually just bought one. In later life he would fill shelves in his homes with stacks of unread classics and would talk sometimes of wanting to earn a higher degree. At one point, entering prison, he said he intended to study law. No doubt this lack of formal education continued to feed his insecurities and disappoint Hermilda, but no one who knew him doubted his natural cunning.
He became a gangster. There was a long tradition of shady business practices in Medellín. The stereotypical paisa was a hustler, someone skilled in turning a profit no matter what the enterprise. The region was famous for contrabandistas, local heads of organized-crime syndicates, practitioners of the centuries-old paisa tradition of smuggling—originally gold and emeralds, now marijuana, and soon cocaine. By the time Pablo dropped out of school, in 1966, drug smuggling was already serious business, well over the heads of seventeen-year-old hoodlums. Pablo got his start conning people out of money on the streets of Medellín. But he had plans. When he told his mother that he wanted to be big, he most likely had in mind two kinds of success. Just as the contrabandistas dominated the illicit street life of Medellín, its legitimate society was ruled politically and socially by a small number of rich textile and mining industrialists and landowners. These were the dons, the men of culture and education whose money bankrolled the churches and charities and country clubs, who were feared and respected by their employees and those who rented their land. Catholic, traditional, and elitist, these men held high public office and went off to Bogotá to represent Medellín in the national government. Pablo's ambition encompassed both worlds, licit and illicit, and this marks the central contradiction of his career.
The standing legend of Pablo Escobar has it that he and his gang got their start by stealing headstones from cemeteries, sandblasting them clean, and then reselling them. He did have an uncle who sold tombstones, and Pablo evidently worked for him briefly as a teenager. In later life he was always amused when the sandblasting stories were told, and he denied them—but then there was always much that Pablo denied. Hermilda has also called the story a lie, and, indeed, it doesn't seem likely. For one thing, sandblasting sounds too much like honest labor, and there is little to suggest that Pablo ever had an appetite for that. And he was deeply superstitious. He subscribed to that peculiarly pagan brand of Catholicism common in rural Antioquia, one that prays to idols—like Hermilda's child Jesus of Atocha—and communes with dead spirits. Stealing headstones would be an unlikely vocation for anyone who feared the spirit world. What sounds more likely are stories he later admitted to, of running petty street scams with his friends, selling contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets, and conning people out of their cash with a mixture of bluff and charm as they emerged from the local bank. Pablo would not have been the first street-smart kid to discover that it was easier and more exciting to take money from others than to earn it. He was exceptionally daring. Maybe it was the dope, but Pablo discovered in himself an ability to remain calm, deliberate, even cheerful when others grew frightened and unsteady. He used it to impress his friends, and to frighten them. On several occasions as a youth, Pablo later boasted, he had held up Medillín banks by himself with an automatic rifle, bantering cheerfully with the clerks as they emptied their cash drawers. That kind of recklessness and poise is what distinguished Pablo from his criminal peers and made him their leader. Before long his crimes would grow more sophisticated, and more dangerous.
The record shows that Pablo was an accomplished car thief before he was twenty. He and his gang took the crude business of pinching cars and turned it into a mini-industry, boldly taking vehicles (drivers would just be pulled from behind the steering wheel in broad daylight) and chopping them down to a collection of valuable parts within hours. There was plenty of money to be made in parts, and no direct evidence of the theft remained. Once he'd amassed sufficient capital, Pablo began simply bribing municipal officials to issue new papers for stolen vehicles, eliminating the need to disassemble the cars. He seems to have had few significant run-ins with the law during this period. The arrest records have vanished, but Pablo did spend several months in a Medellín jail before his twentieth birthday, no doubt making connections with a more violent class of criminals, who would later serve him well. Clearly the stint behind bars did nothing to dissuade him from a life of crime.
By all accounts, Pablo was enjoying himself. With their wide inventory of stolen engines and parts, he and Gustavo built race cars and competed in local and national car rallies. His business evolved. In time, car theft in Medellín was practiced with such impunity that Pablo realized he had created an even more lucrative market. He started selling protection. People paid him to prevent their vehicles from being pinched —so Pablo began making money on cars he didn't steal as well as from those he did. Generous with his friends, he would give them new cars stolen right from the factory. Pablo would draw up false bills of sale and instruct the recipients to take out fake newspaper ads offering the cars for sale, creating a paper trail to make it appear as though the cars had been obtained legitimately.
It was during this period, as a young crime boss on the make, that Pablo developed a reputation for casual, lethal violence. In what may have begun as simply a method of debt collection, he would recruit thugs to kidnap people who owed him money and then ransom them for whatever was owed. If the family couldn't come up with the money or refused to pay, the victim would be killed. Sometimes the victim was killed after the ransom was paid, just to make a point. It was murder, but a kind of murder that can be rationalized. A man had to protect his interests. Pablo lived in a world where accumulation of wealth required the capacity to defend it. Even for legitimate businessmen in Medellín there was little effective or honest law enforcement. If someone cheated you, you either accepted your losses or took steps yourself to settle the score. If you grew successful enough, you had to contend with corrupt police and government officials who wanted a piece of your profits. This was especially true in Pablo's new illicit business. As the amounts of money and contraband grew, so did the need to enforce discipline, punish enemies, collect debts, and bribe officials. Kidnapping or even killing someone who had cheated him not only kept the books balanced; it sent a message.
Pablo became expert at taking credit for crimes that could not be linked to him directly. From the start, he made sure that those he recruited to commit violent acts were never certain who had hired them. In time, Pablo grew accustomed to ordering people killed. It fed his growing megalomania and bred fear—which was akin to the respect he seemed to crave more and more.
Kidnapping for debt collection evolved soon enough into kidnapping for its own sake. The most famous case attributed to young Pablo was that of Envigado industrialist Diego Echavarria, in the summer of 1971. Echavarria was a proud Conservative factory owner, widely respected in higher social circles but disliked by many of the poor workers in Medellín, who were being laid off in droves from local textile mills. At the time, wealthy Antioquia landowners were expanding their country holdings by simply evicting whole villages of farmers from the Magdalena River Valley, leaving them no alternative but to move to the slums of the growing city. The unpopular factory owner's body was found in a hole not far from the place where Pablo was born. He had been kidnapped six weeks earlier and had been beaten and strangled, even though his family had paid a $50,000 ransom. The killing of Diego Echavarria worked on two levels. It turned a profit and it doubled as a blow for social justice. There is no way to prove that Pablo orchestrated this crime, and he was never officially charged with it, but it was so widely attributed to him that in the slums people began referring to Pablo admiringly as Doctor Echavarria, or simply El Doctor. The killing had all the hallmarks of the young crime boss's emerging style: cruel, deadly, smart, and with an eye toward public relations.
In one stroke, the Echavarria kidnapping elevated Pablo to the status of local legend. It also advertised his ruthlessness and ambition, which didn't hurt either. In coming years, he would become even more of a hero to many in Medellín's slums with well-publicized acts of charity. He had a social conscience, but his aspirations were strictly middle class. When he told his mother he wanted to be "big," he wasn't dreaming of revolution or remaking his country; he had in mind living in a mansion as spectacular as the mock medieval castle Echavarria had built for himself. He would live in a castle like that, not as someone who exploited the masses but as a people's don, a man of power and wealth who had not lost touch with the common man. His deepest anger was always reserved for those who interfered with that fantasy.
Posted April 27, 2009
Killing Pablo By Mark Bowden tells the story of Pablo Escobar. Pablo Escobar is part of the Colombian cocaine cartel, and is involved in a huge amount of murders that he denies having anything to do with. This story goes through Pablo's life from his days when he could do anything or kill anyone and because people were so scared of him nothing was said, to the days coming up to his death where he had everyone in the world turned against him. Pablo Escobar killed hundreds and never thought twice about it. This story also meets with lots of people who's lives crossed paths with Pablo, and most times it was for the worse. I liked this book and i disliked the books for different reasons. I liked this book because it gave a great input into Pablo's Escobar Glory days and also when he fell from the high point he was at. I liked how the book didn't just start when the chase for Pablo began, but it started at the beginning while Pablo was just selling cocaine and killing people secretly. What I disliked about this book is how confusing it got with all the different police officers, political people, the ones that were murdered by Pablo and their grieving family's. There were so many names that sometimes i forgot who the book was talking about. The book also shows how Pablo's killing and involvement in the cocaine cartel affected so many people's lives. Pablo killed fathers, and sons, he killed parents and kids, and he took hostages and threatened their lives. Nobody was safe during the time of Pablo Escobar. Everyone was always worried for their family and their own lives. If Pablo was led to believe that someone was against him, even if it wasn't true they would be killed. Killing Pablo was a great book that showed every detail of what happened during the reign of Pablo. The book showed his family and how they were affected, how his son started to grow up just like his father. It showed how they actually believed Pablo was a good person, even though he was at fault for the pain all the families he killed a member of would live with for the rest of their lives. Living in Colombia was never, ever a guarantee of safety it was more a guarantee of someone you loved or yourself being killed. The story of Pablo Escobar described how one mans power and ruling over all of Colombia could be taken out of his hands when he went to far. The search for Pablo Escobar lasted many years and Pablo was in hiding going from place to place. He would never fight back himself he would hit where it hurt, but killing the family's of the men that were searching for Pablo. Pablo would never be in one place for long, never stay on the phone longer then a specific amount of time, and was very strict about giving out information. I highly recommend the story Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden.
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I was always fascinated by the stories my brother would tell me about Pablo and this book confirms a lot of it. He had an interesting relationship with him and that's all I'm saying about that matter. If your interested in that dark world then give this book a try.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 12, 2012
Follow the violent chase and epic take-down of the man deemed the world's greatest outlaw, Pablo Escobar, in Mark Bowden's
action-packed novel, Killing Pablo. Bowden has written an exceptional piece that takes the reader from the early days of Escobar's life,
all the way through the outrageous manhunt and unexpected turn of events that left him dead. Pablo's story is actually quite remarkable.
He grew up outside of Medellín, Columbia and led a fairly typical life. most of his influence was from his mother. He had great
aspirations. He wanted to "be big". He began using drugs and smoking pot at a young age, and committed petty crimes. The first of
which was sandblasting and reselling tombstones, and then he sold fake lottery tickets and even began car theft; killing and taking
cars, selling the parts for profit. Not too long after, Pablo realized a new way to make money; selling drugs. He started small, but when
a local dealer passed away, he took on that portion of the drug trade. He soon opened doors to the United States, and eventually
became responsible for around 70% of the cocaine entering the US. His power was clear, he was in control of all crime in Medellín.
He made sure people recognized his authority, he made money off of the people he stole from and made money off of the people he
didn't for security. Pablo killed because he could, and it made him plenty of money. As his power grew, Pablo even became a part of the
Colombian government as a member of congress. This gave him access to whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. When
somebody opposed him, he knew how to manage it. He unleashed utter havoc on the nation, setting off bombs and committing
countless murders. He bribed and killed those who dared threaten his authority. Eventually, Pablo informed the government that he
would give up under one single condition: that he could construct a jail for himself to spend his sentence in. Reluctant, they accepted.
And it wasn't long until he escaped. The following events are when things really began to pick up.
This period of time is most effectively captured by Bowden. He tells of the hunt in great detail, including photographs, transcripts of
phone conversations, and significant documents. The U.S. special forces and Colombia worked together to bring down Pablo,
promising no consequences to anybody involved that would assist them. These fifteen months brought great difficulty to those who
were working to take him down, and it took the United States Delta Force to finally take down the drug lord.
Action-packed and deeply informative, Killing Pablo is an excellent novel. Bowden is able to tell his story and even include real media,
creating a compelling book that leaves no questions unanswered. I would recommend it to anybody that enjoys reading crime stories,
or anybody looking for a great non-fiction.
Posted December 7, 2011
The novel ¿Killing Pablo¿ by Mark Bowden is an epic fast paced journey through the eyes of the Colombian government during Pablo Escobar¿s reign of terror. The action packed story gives the reader a lot of different information about Colombia¿s history. From early Assassinations of future Presidents to young Pablo muscling is way up through Meddellin¿s organized crime scene.
The book explains Pablo¿s intentions which in a sense were not that bad. He himself only wanted better for the Colombia people but what he was willing to do to provide it was to much for not just Colombia but for the world to handle. He single handily built the biggest drug cartel in the world smuggling 70% of the cocaine brought into the United States.
He managed to put himself into Colombia¿s political system becoming part of senate making Colombia a cocaine ruled country. Whatever he wanted he could have it. The United States demanded him be extradited immediately but any force sent after him could be paid off or killed.
America¿s involvement became a major part to Colombia¿s eventual victory. Once Pablo became a wanted man and lost all credibility he became the worst terrorist the world had ever seen. He set off bombs everyday and his hit squads erased anyone who stepped in his path. It seamed like he was an unstoppable force.
The United States involvement was extremely limited though. They were only allowed to gather Intel from there safe compound (although they often went on raids secretly). There technology monitored radio feeds and cell phone lines looking for Pablo¿s voice to come up.
Eventually Pablo surrendered himself to the government after unleashing all he could on the Colombian people. His agreement to his surrender guaranteed that he would not be extradited and that he could build a jail for himself wherever he liked. Instead of building a jail he built a luxurious mansion which he had free reign to leave whenever he wanted.
He escaped once again when the government planned to move him to an actually prison. Once again his terrorist acts continued and the Cocaine industry thrived. At that point though Delta Force (Army Special Forces) had enough. They decided to use Pablo¿s tactics against him.
As police began killing Pablo¿s associates in gun fights, the U.S. decided to bribe the ones that were still alive with Benefits. They were promised that there records would be wiped clean if they were to help on the hunt for Pablo Escobar. Even Pablo¿s enemies came out of hiding to help thus creating a death squad of their own to strike back.
Any act of terrorism that was committed upon the Colombia people was done back to Pablo¿s family. Bombing and killings went back and forth for months. This took away Pablo¿s moral and confidence.
`The battle continued for many months until Pablo was eventually slain in his home town of Medellin. The story is a constantly moving forward with action packed chapters that jump off the page at you. Written like a Tom Clancy thriller, ¿Killing Pablo¿ is a must read for Colombian¿s who are curious about there countries recent history. Mark Bowden successfully wrote another great Action novel.
Posted August 29, 2011
When writer Mark Bowden was working on his book Black Hawk Down, he keep seeing a gruesome photographs of agents posting with a shot up individual. Being curious he began to inquire as to the origin of this macabre pose and uncovered the truth. This is the violent ending of the most notorious drug king pin, Pablo Escobar.
Tracing the origins to the political rumblings of the period known as "la violencia" in this beautiful South American country Colombia, of which my roots lie, Bowden takes you into the underworld of these drug smugglers. In their hey day of the 80s and 90s they even offered to pay off the Colombian debt in return for amnesty and free reign.
Pablo Escobar was a ruthless humanitarian who bought allegiance through the code of "plata or ploma" (money or lead). This modern day gangster ruled with an iron fist and even came up with the terms of his own imprisonment, a plush prison campus in which he freely came and went.
In the end, he cowardly ran and was killed like a dog. Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden is a fascinating tale of the fast and furious drug under world.
Posted May 18, 2011
Mark Bowden really did a number in righting this book. It is remarkable how interested this book kept me. It was a story within a story. A story of how the US government helped take down Pablo Escbobar. This book told the story of Pablo using facts but kept me interested like it were any old book. Pablo was head of the Medellin cocaine cartel. He was assassinated by Colombian police with the helpof the American Government. This book was about Pablo's rise and fall in his career as head cartel. The author tells this story with such precision, its almost like your seeing it happen with your very own eyes. Pablo created one of the biggest drug bussinesses ever. He lived with the protection of all his workers and could pay and persuade others to look the other way. He was one of the most powerful people in Columbia even more powerful then the country itself. This book starts out telling how Pablo started and grew to become much more. But at some point he hit the top. He had everything and nothing could stop his power. He was protected from everything no matter what he did. He had the power to accomplish anything he wanted. One day all that came to a standstill and he was forced to run and hide. I really liked this book because of how deep it went into the whole situation itself. It made me see what was happening and i really liked all the situations brought to Pablo. It made the book both have action but tell the whole story of what happend to Pablo. I also liked how it showed pictures to describe his life and summarize his story. They were real photos of him throughout his life just telling his story. I honestly have to say this is one of the better books i ave read in a while. Pablo's life was very interesting and how much he affected the world around him really outstanded me. It was amazing the affect he had on really everything because of how powerful he was and the people he worked with or bribed. This book showed me that no matter how much power you have, if you abuse it, not even all that power can protect you. I would recomend this book to whoever likes to read. I think in general this book could keep the interest to anyone as long as they like to read. I enjoyed all the action in this book and I think whoever reads this book will enjoy it as much or maybe even more than I did.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 13, 2010
I recently read the exciting and fascinating tale of Killing Pablo: the Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden. The book was published by Penguin books in 2002 in New York City. To start off, this book was phenomenal! The subject of Killing Pablo is Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's rise to power from almost nothing to one of the most elusive predators in the history of drug trafficking. The United States were at unrest with Colombia at this time, due to all the smuggling of drugs into the U.S. The situation became so bad that the Colombian Government called in the United States Military to assist. This book is about that hunt and the troublesome tale of Pablo Escobar.
Pablo grew up as a troubled child, always stealing and smashing things, but by the time he reached his young adulthood, he was into expensive drug trafficking. Soon after he plotted to make his drug cartel to be massive, so he got a seat on the Colombian congress, and was arrested son after, in 1992. He escaped prison a year later and continued his life on the run. He soon takes things to the next level with car bombings, murdering, and extreme drug trafficking. Bowden always puts a lot of action into his writing such as when "Tyson tried to flee out a back window to a fire escape, and he was trapped. He took a bullet right between the eyes." Soon after intelligence tracks down Pablo and the police surround him. How will El Doctor get himself out of this mess? You have to read this fantasic story to find out. Throughout this intense journey of emotional and mental surprises, Bowden is constantly filling your mind with great literature, fine writing skills, and most importantly, he teaches you many great things and essential knowledge.
I learned a lot of information from reading this book. First off, I learned all about the life story of Pablo Escobar, how he manipulated many people, how he was able to get a seat on the Colombian congress, and many other interesting events. I also learned about a secretive group called Centra Spike. They were a leading intelligence agency that assisted in tracking down Pablo. I also learned more about SR-71 space ships. They were used in Cold War reconnaissance, but the war against Pablo escalated to such a level that these vehicles needed to assist. Another thing I didn't know was that George H.W. Bush had to declare war on Colombian drug cartels, which is pretty major.
In conclusion, Killing Pablo was an absolutely fantastic novel about one of the biggest outlaws in the history of drug trafficking. I would definitely recommend this book to mainly high school students, but anyone older than that can also read and enjoy in learning about Pablo and his manipulative plot against Colombia. Mark Bowden is the perfect author for this novel, and he always does a fabulous job of telling a tale that often is not told. I also like how Mark Bowden uses Spanish words like El Doctor and La Catedral in his writing and every time a new term was introduced, he would frequently repeat these words, perfect for a student learning Spanish like myself. The book was an exciting tale about a time that very few people know about, and it was very phenomenal it. Another reason this book was fantastic was the astounding factually accurate information, it was awesome and appealing to me, and Mark Bowden does and excellent job informing people of events. If you enjoy action movies, stories, or books, Killing Pablo is a book for you!
Posted April 27, 2010
I read Killing Pablo: The Hunt for The World's Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden. This book centered around the life and career of Pablo Escobar. I really liked this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in war stories. The violent parts are second-to-none, and are numerous. For example, the author writes "Pablo's men set off a car bomb in Bogotá" (Bowden, 57). Later in the book, Mark writes "Then two large car bombs exploded in the El Poblado section of Medellín" (Bowden, 175).
However, I would not recommend this to anyone who hates violence. Along with reasons previously stated, some acts of violence are just too detailed. For example, Mark writes "And before you killed a man, you first made him beg, scream, and gag. or first you killed those he most loved before his eyes" (Bowden, 14). The author never writes simply "they were killed". Mark always has to explain how they died.
Posted April 26, 2010
Killing Pablo is a fascinating look into the life of Columbia's most notorious outlaw, Pablo Escobar. While still a young man, he forces his way into the drug trafficking industry at a time when cocaine use in America was at an all time high. He even manages to obtain a seat in Colombia's Congress. At the height of his power, the Medellin drug cartel which he led was more powerful than the Colombian government. Escobar's drug cartel would attempt to kill anyone that they decided to remove from the picture. Yet this cartel was destroyed, and Pablo Escobar was killed in a shootout with Colombian police. Mark Bowden tells the story of how this killing was possible. It was a cat and mouse game that lasted for about four years. The people who volunteered to hunt down Escobar, both American and Colombian, were putting their lives at risk. Escobar had the mindset of kill or be killed. It got to the point where he was willing to blow up airliners to save his cartel. This book was my favorite out of every book I've read. It is a very interesting book that makes you want to keep reading. There is a lot of action throughout Killing Pablo. If you like action movies and want a book to read that won't have you bored for one second, you should read this book. There is also information in this book about the history of Colombia and America that i did not know. If you like this book I would also recommend one of Mark Bowden's other books, Black Hawk Down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 8, 2010
though the book was very informational it delt with more of the political side of his story. very boring! it was very repetitive on most subjects and the story skipped around. did not care for it at all. would not recommend to anyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 16, 2009
Killing Pablo: The Hunt For The World's Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden Published by Penguin Books 2002
The subject of the book is to find Pablo Escobar basically, which leads to a cat and mouse game in the end. Pablo Escobar was once one of the richest people in the world. When he was on the top of the world, he was basically the Medellin drug cartel which most believed, was more powerful then the Colombian government. The Medellin drug cartel could and would attempt to kill anyone who would interfere with their work. But what about Pablo you ask? How did he get started? He began as a high school drop out, stealing car's radios, rims, tires, most of the time the car itself. Then he began to sell cocaine, this is were his main money maker began. With the money he earned he supported his family. Then when his wealth exploded he began to spend his money on his home town and other towns to, fixing them up, building hotels, building better housing, and recreational places such as soccer fields. To many of Colombian citizens Pablo was hero, to outsiders he was a drug lord. Later on, Pablo began using tons and tons of dynamite to prove that the government was not in control, that he was in control. Then the United States of America got involved because, Pablo began selling cocaine Through a Florida drug dealer who told police and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) that Pablo was using him to sel in America. With Special Operations Command on the way to Colombia. Which included the Centra Spike who has been listening into the Medellia Cartel, passing the information onto the Colombian's police force Eventually under the pressure Pablo Escobar turned himself in. This is where Mark Bowden hits home on why no one should make deals with people like Pablo. Then after his escape from prison the Colombian police found where he was hiding, with the help from Pablo's betraying king pin's.
I personally did like this book, it says that the sotry is fast pace which is absolutely true. "Pablo was like a phantom. Even though he was ostensibly locked up, his power and menace was everywhere" (P. 114 Paragraph 2). To me that was, just too awesome. The way the Author describes it, is like having a movie to go along with the book. I learned that even thought profitable drugs SHOULD NOT be sold, but certain exceptions for medical reasons.
I would recommend this book if you enjoy a true story about seeing the rise and fall of a drug dealer, also I would recommend this book if you liked Mark Bowden's other work
Posted December 16, 2009
Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw, recounts the years of terror for the Colombian people in the reign of Pablo Escobar, the king of Medellin drug cartel. The author, Mark Bowden reveals the inability of the government to control the drug trade, and the corruption of the Colombian elite.
A heartless assassin, Pablo ordered beating and murders, yet showed himself to the public as a generous caring man, showing compassion to the poor. It seemed as if no one could stop this force of nature, even in prison he controlled his empire as it grew and grew. Prison, for Pablo, meant 50" wide screen TV's, custom toilets, a king sized bed and all the food he could eat. After seeing the true breadth of Pablo's operation, the president, Cesar Gaviria, pulled out all the stops, and brought the American government into the fight.
Lead by Morris Busby, the American ambassador, the U.S. build a strike force to annihilate Pablo and his empire. With information from Centra Spike, one of the greatest reconnaissance forces of the time, and with manpower from the mysterious Delta Force, the strike team embarks on a fifteen month operation, to investigate and destroy Pablo Escobar.
Bowden reveals all, in this gripping book of intrigue and intelligence. As the noose tightens around Pablo's neck, will the Colombian government hold its resolve, or will it topple under its own weight, leaving Pablo Escobar the king of Colombia?
Posted December 16, 2009
By: Mark Bowden
Published by the Penguin group in 2001.
This is a book that is thrilled with the actions of deaths hunts and betrays. It is about a man named Pablo Escobar the most wanted man in Colombia. He was the 5th richest man in the world in the 1970's and he also was the biggest cocaine dealer shipping out to the U.S. A man by the name of Rodrigo Lara was determined to stop Pablo from his drug trafficking his was then killed three months after he had succeeded he was killed riding in a chauffeur driven Mercedes. After that had happened Pablo went to war against Colombia and he was no won the run with no money and little help from his friends. Then a new president came along and made a deal with Pablo, Pablo accepted after many different offers were made. So he was able to choose a location for his prison and he built it and he also chose what was inside of it. Then a man was ordered to send him to an actual prison instead of the palace kind that he had built. Then one day he escaped. They were able to find and destroy a major cocaine business that was ended in a terrific hunt for on man even though he held thirty million hostages and killed probably many of those hostages.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes killings, deaths, explosions, hunts, anything that involves US DEA agents, the CIA, Colombian DAS, DIJIN, Colombian secret police, and I would also recommended to any body in the forces or a police officer.
Posted May 30, 2009
I Also Recommend:
This was very insightful and at the same time extremely entertaining. Bowden does an excellent job of sticking to facts and filling in with possibilities for the unknown, allowing the reader to decide for themselves. He describes the players and situations in such a manner as to provide the excitement of a suspenseful thriller.
He seems to do a good job of representing both sides of the story, illustrating how a guy like Pablo Escobar could exist in such a powerful way in the first place and he doesn't hide the fact that the U.S. had the primary role in his rise to power (through our money and drug use)and his eventual demise(through our money and military/political efforts).
I have many Colombian friends and now I understand a little better the incredible violence they had to live through.
Thank goodness Colombia is now nothing like it was when Pablo's reign of terror and war with the government was taking place. It is a beautiful, safe country with some of the most interesting, colorful and hospitable people I've ever met, perhaps because of their tragic past. I recommend everyone visit once in their life, as it is truly an undiscovered gem.
Rumor in Colombia is that the U.S. forces actually killed Pablo and that they then covered it up to look as if the Colombian forces killed him when the press arrived. Who knows for sure?
But the book illustrates the challenges and potential for all Latin America countries, not just Colombia and the positive role the U.S. could take in helping them deal with their problems (which end up being our problems).
The U.S. effort illustrated in "Killing Pablo" is one of too few positive moments in an otherwise embarrassing history of the U.S. meddling in Latin America's affairs. The book illustrates at least one success story in a score of failures and shameful behavior on behalf of our government's intervention in Latin America.
Excellent book. I recommend for anyone who'd like a better worldview of complicated issues rather than the bubble gum diet we are fed on a daily basis by the U.S. media.
Posted April 29, 2009
Killing Pablo, by Mark Bowden, is the true story of the hunt for the world's greatest outlaw, Pablo Escobar. Pablo was a major cocaine boss, shipping billions worth of the lethal drug to the U.S.A. over the span of his lifetime. This novel is mostly from the Government of Columbia's view, following their steps in their lengthy attempt of ridding Columbia of Pablo. After many violent rampages from Pablo, killing thousands, Columbia decides to take America's help in hunting down this fugitive. This novel deals with politics, concerning the U.S.A.'s involvement in worldly affairs. Although some people may disagree with America's involvement with Escobar, America considered him a national terrorist after he bombed an airplane headed toward America. So America ships military personnel over to Columbia for much needed help. This book has a technical- military writing style, following the CIA, Columbian Army, and Centra Spike (US secret service) in their compelling efforts to hunt down Pablo. With the weakness of the Columbian government, the hunt is very strenuous, making for an exciting and interesting point of view of the lengthy affair with the world's greatest outlaw. The author greatly portrays the drug lord's unique personality, showing his "calm, stress- free mentality". Pablo, said to be so calm, never under pressure, or stressed out, is forced to constantly be on the run as a fugitive of Columbia. He also cannot not travel anywhere else because he is too infamous, and no country wants the negative publicity of allowing him in. Therefore, he re- locates countless amounts of times, and cleverly adapts to his pursuers tactics, making for a riveting story of the world's greatest manhunt. I recommend this book to anyone who likes military style writing, as well as history, or someone who likes violence. This is a relatively easy read, and very informative, with accurate historical information throughout the novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 23, 2009
Reading this book it's scary to think that it is a true story. It would be easy to believe that the story comes from a movie or television show, but each word is true. The story of Pablo Escobar is like that of a king. He makes a triumphant rise to the top and a then has a fall straight to the bottom. Some would say that he is still triumphant since his story is now apart of history to be remembered forever. Pablo was a man who wanted to be loved by all. This may very well be his downfall. In his attempts to become a politician and Columbia's "favorite son" he made himself known to the wrong people. His drug cartel would be one that rivaled many multimillion dollar companies. He would be proclaimed the richest man in the world. All of this lead him to fall at the cross hairs of the US government, a spot you don't want to find yourself. He did have control over Colombia, making the US pay billions to try and stop him. Eventually they would kill Pablo, ending his rule, but placing him in the hearts of Colombia forever. Bowden is a great author in his ability to draw his reader in. The way the information and stories flow makes it feel like you are standing on the sidelines watching it unfold. By the end of the book you feel as though you know Pablo Escobar and almost feel sad for him. The research Bowden did is very reliable and some of it may not have been available if no for this book. Definitely a must read for any history buff or someone who wants a good drama criminal read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 28, 2009
Another solid book by Mark Bowden. Information flowed smoothly and accurately, in line with several other books which mentioned organizations and missions relating to the Escobar mission. Thorough research and very entertaining.
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Posted January 4, 2009
By reading this book from the very beginning i could tell Bowden put a substantial amount of research in it. Every page is filled with interesting facts to support the overall story, this makes the book a very enjoyable and informative reading. This book is also filled with suspenseful action which kept me reading the whole time. Bowden also introduces many new characters throughout the story, and they all intertwine with eachother. This also makes the book very easy to read and interesting. He is very descriptive with all his characters, by the end of the book i felt like i knew the characters by heart. He describes their actions, thoughts and feelings to create a very distinct character profile for every character. The ending of this book also created a great feeling of pride and justice; the police force and army coming out victorious. This book gave me a better idea of what the world is really like; for many South Americans drug dealing is the only way to make money and survive. Bowden does a tremendous job of displaying those kind of facts, also giving the reader the criminal's perspective. It also informed me on information regarding criminals, and army forces. He demonstrates the real amount of hard work put in every day by these kind of officials, just to keep the country out of danger. Overall this is a very well rounded book, i highly recommend it for almost every reader.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 11, 2008
I read the book Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World¿s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden. The author starts by having an explanation of the aftermath of Pablo¿s death. It happened on December 3, 1993. But I won¿t give away the ending entirely. Pablo was an outlaw and always was that way. He would always say to his mother ¿I¿m not cut out for education or a normal job. ¿I want to be big.¿(p.17). He never knew that he would be the seventh richest man in the world by the time he was thirty-three.<BR/>He was born on December 1, 1949 in Envigado, Colombia. Pablo didn¿t grow up poor and never really was throughout his short life. His father Abel de Jesus Escobar was a cattle farmer and his mother Hermilda Gaviria was a founder to the Envigado elementary School and was a schoolteacher there. As Pablo was growing up La Violencia was taking place. So along with all the killing that was going on in La Violencia, the teenagers including Pablo were all smoking Marijuana. So many Teens smoked Marijuana that Fernando Gonzales Wrote a book called The Right to Disobey. In this the teens were called Nadaistas or Nothingists because they smoked Marijuana. This rebellious state of mind Pablo had made him drop out of school with his cousin Gustavo Gaviria three years before graduation. Pablo later tried to get a diploma but failed again in 1966 and later bought one. As a teen, Pablo would steal cars (forcefully or not) and would bring them to chop shops and sell them for parts. <BR/>After his rough teenage years he became a Congressman. Along with that he had a Cocaine Empire and was the Kingpin of the Medellin Cartel. During his years in congress there were many assassinations including Justices and Police Officers. The biggest one was the up and coming president Luis Galán. This brings Pablo from the Congressman to the man on the run.<BR/>He paid a Sicario or paid gunmen to commit this murder, but would never admit to doing it. Pablo was on the run from 1989-1991. As any person on the run would do, he tried to surrender. It took him many offers to finally make a good one and go to court. His sentence was to go to jail, La Catedral. The funny thing is that Pablo made this jail. When people went in and out of there it was easily noticed that he had all kinds¿ of couches, waterbeds, televisions, bars and many more things. Pablo had prostitutes come in and out as he pleased. This place basically Pablo¿s home away from home. This of course could not be tolerated at all by the police. So they sent a brigade of 400 soldiers to La Catedral. Eduardo Mendoza a young Vice Minister of Justice for Colombia would lead the group with the intent to have Pablo surrender and come with him to a real jail. Then to Eduardo¿s surprise Pablo¿s men attacked him after he asked him to go to the real jail, his men and Pablo¿s armed guards took him hostage in la Catedral. They held Mendoza hostage to give Pablo time to escape before Delta Force came. Then an assault team attacked the ¿jail¿ and amidst the chaos Pablo escaped. Eduardo later had to go to court and explain his innocence to the jury that he didn¿t let Pablo escape. This then led to the final 16 month manhunt for Pablo Escobar. <BR/> <BR/>The Officer in Charge of the operation was Colonel Hugo Martinez. At this point César Gaviria (Colombia¿s president at the time) was forced into allowing Delta Force, Centra Spike, and the C.I.A work with the police and Search Bloc (Colombian spWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 16, 2008
Killing Pablo is the story of Pablo Escobar. This novel talks about Pablo's life and how the government found and killed him. I enjoyed this book because of the writing style. Pablo Escobar was the most powerful drug dealer in history and the head of the medellin cartel. Pablo helped his community with the money he made from selling drugs. Everyone around Pablo loved him so they would not tell the police where he was. That is why the search for Pablo went on as long as it did. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the writing style of Mark Bowden.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.