Pablo Escobar was born in Rionegro, Colombia, in 1949. At the age of 22, he established a drug cartel in Medellín that ran for over two decades. At its most active, the cartel supplied an estimated 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. Here are ten little-known facts about one of the most infamous drug lords and the leader of the Medellin Cartel.
1. Rise to Power
Escobar, the son of a farmer and a schoolteacher, began his life of crime while still a teenager. His first illegal scheme was selling fake diplomas. He then branched out into falsifying report cards before smuggling stereo equipment and stealing tombstones.
After that, he graduated to stealing cars, which led to his first arrest in 1974 at the age of 25. Shortly after that, he became an established drug smuggler, and by the late 70s, his crime gang evolved into the Medellín cartel.
2. Pablo Escobar Net Worth Reached $3 Billion
At the peak of its stature, the Medellín Cartel was reportedly raking in around $20 billion every year. In fact, the demand for cocaine in the US during Escobar’s reign surpassed that of coffee. Due to this, Escobar's personal wealth grew exponentially, hitting a peak of 3 billion USD.
Escobar appeared on the original 1987 Forbes list of international billionaires and did so for the next six years.
But this claim was disputed by his son, Sebastián Marroquín, in 2011. "Forbes couldn't have, can't, and won't ever have access to or review the accounting books from mobsters so they can calculate their alleged fortunes, not even close to the real figures (and not all mobsters keep accountability books, my father was one of those),"
Whether or not Pablo was a billionaire, the fact remains that he was very wealthy.
3. He Set Out On a Reign of Terror After His Political Career Failed
Escobar was elected to Congress of Colombia in 1982, but he was forced to resign two years later. The move ultimately proved to be a strategic error. It brought the formerly little-known Escobar into the public spotlight and encouraged journalists to investigate the source of his wealth.
Pablo wasn’t able to convince them that he had made his insane wealth through legitimate ways. Since the government didn’t want a suspected criminal in congress, they kicked him out. In revenge for his expulsion from Congress, Escobar ordered the assassination of the Justice Minister who exposed him.
The government soon retaliated by ordering the arrest of Escobar's henchmen. This formed the beginning of an outright war between the state and the cartel. The result —about 4,000 people dead, including three Colombian Presidential candidates, an attorney general, an estimated 200 judges, and 1,000 police personnel.
4. Pablo’s Biggest Fear Was Extradition
Pablo Escobar's biggest fear was extradition to the United States. He once said that he'd "rather have a grave in Colombia than a jail cell in the US". This fear is what motivated him to get elected in the first place— to see if he could bend the extradition laws from within. This plan obviously didn’t work, so he turned to plan B.
He took a second shot at it by attempting to strike an unbelievable deal with the Colombian authorities; he would personally pay off the Colombian national debt of $10 billion - in cash - in return for a change to the extradition laws. Needless to say, this was met by a firm “NO”.
5. He was Hailed as the Modern-day Robin Hood
While U.S. and Colombian officials have portrayed Escobar as a villain and terrorist who held the entire nation hostage, many poor Colombians admired him as a generous benefactor.
He funded social programs and housing projects to benefit the poor, such as Barrio Pablo Escobar, a neighborhood he constructed in Medellín to house the poor living in the city’s slums.
He was also a big soccer fan, and he built over 60 soccer fields for the youth. Thousands of people loved him. About 25,000 people, primarily Colombians who revered him for his philanthropy, attended his burial in Medellin.
6. Several Theories Float Around Escobar's Death
It's popularly believed that he was gunned down by the Colombian Police on December 2, 1993, on the rooftop of a hideout in Medellin. But accounts from rival drug dealers, gang members and Escobar’s own son indicate that those soldiers may not have been the ones responsible for the demise of the drug lord.
The alternative storyline is that Escobar had gone down by his own weapon. Another theory is that former members of the Medellín cartel who, seeking vengeance, offered money to members of Escobar’s crew, members of the police, or anyone else who was willing to take on the kingpin.
It’s said that members of this gang (known as Los Pepes) accompanied the police on its raid of Escobar’s hideout in Medellín and that he fell by one of their guns. To date, the confusion of the encounter has left the question of who fired the fatal shot open to speculation.
7. Pablo Escobar Had Multiple Nicknames
During his life, Pablo had many nicknames, including Don Pablo, El Doctor (The Doctor), El Mágico (The Magician), El Padrino (The Godfather), El Patrón (The Boss), El Señor (The Lord), El Zar de la Cocaína, (The Tsar of Cocaine). That’s a lot of nicknames for one man!
8. Escobar Run His Drug Empire Operation Like a Fortune 500 Company
At one point, Pablo bought a Learjet to bring his cash back to Colombia. The private jet could carry almost $100 million on a single trip. Depending on the amount of cocaine a pilot smuggled, they could earn up to $500,000 a day.
In addition, he bought an island on the way back so that his jet could refuel during the stop-over. Here, he set up a high-end drug smuggling facility complete with giant freezers to keep the cocaine fresh. He also had a well-organized communication strategy that surprisingly used homing pigeons.
On multiple raids to his hideouts, police found volumes on how to take care of homing pigeons. The pigeons were used to deliver messages to various Escobar associates and members of the cartel.
9. The Drug Pin had a Knack for Cleanliness
In their book Manhunters: How We Took Down Pablo Escobar, two former agents from the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) share their incredible story from the time they hunted down Pablo. According to the two agents, Escobar had a thing for clean and well-proportioned bathrooms.
In fact, each time they raided a safe house that Escobar had used, they always found a curiously sparkling bathroom with brand-new fixtures!
10. He was Shot a Day After his 44th birthday.
It is believed that Escobar had a long conversation with his son than what he generally allowed himself to avoid being tracked. But this happened a day after his 44th birthday, and he wanted to talk a little bit more. This was his own undoing, and ten minutes later, the DEA and the Colombian special forces were right on top of him.
There’s our list of ten facts about Pablo Escobar. Which one did you enjoy reading the most?