By Clarence Walker for Gangsters Inc.
Pablo Escobar was the world's notorious drug lord. Once glorified as Robin Hood by many who loved him and vilified by the law as a mass murderer and drug dealer, Escobar defined an era like no other gangster on the planet. He ran the cocaine trade in Bogota, Colombia, like a "Fortune 500" company, raking in "millions of dollars" annually.
Escobar supplied most of the cocaine shipped into America. The Colombian government and the U.S. government feared this ruthless drug lord who masterminded a campaign of kidnappings and bombings in Colombia's capital and throughout the country. During the 1980s and 1990s, Escobar and his cartel turned Medellin into a catalyst for violence; the most conservative estimate indicates that Escobar is responsible for thousands of deaths.
"He was one of the world's wealthiest men, but he was a vicious terrorist and murderer," retired DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Agent) Joe Toft, told this writer in an email. Despite labeled as a mass murderer and drug trafficker, this kingpin possessed a seductive and generous spirit.
"Escobar was an incredibly fascinating persona," Toft recalls.
Nearly 19 years have passed since Pablo Escobar was gunned down on a rooftop in the city of Medellin on December 2, 1993. And just like a classic Shakespearean story that never dies---Colombia is once again buzzing about the king narco-killer.
Millions of Colombians, since May 28, 2012, have tuned in nightly on the Caracol Network to watch "Escobar: Boss of Evil."
Caracol represents Colombia's largest television network that's been airing the "Boss of Evil" as a 63-episode drama series about the life and founder of the Medellin drug cartel.
- READ: Elusive Colombian drug lord “Memo Fantasma” arrested – Mysterious kingpin started under Pablo Escobar
"This is an important program for the new generations who do not know much about Escobar," producer Juana Uribe recently stated. But critics say the drama series has raised fears that a younger generation may be inspired to follow in Escobar's footsteps, idolizing his drug dealing and murderous ways.
Joe Toft (photo right), a retired DEA agent who served as the Special-Agent-in Charge of the DEA office in Colombia, coordinated the "kill or capture mission" of Escobar, responds to the public's fascination with the deceased drug lord.
"Pablo Escobar became a role model for many young people in Colombia because of his money, his defiance of the government, and his Robin Hood image."
But, Toft explains, "they should remember how Escobar died. He was hunted down like an animal."
DEA agents Javier Pena and Steve Murphy worked on the ground in Colombia to help Colombian Special Forces and the Los Pepes organization to locate and kill Escobar. Los Pepes was a vigilante group who were stone-cold enemies of Pablo Escobar. The Pepes waged a short-lived war against Escobar's Medellin Drug Cartel in the early 1990s'. So it appeared the Pepes readied themselves for a showdown to settle the score with the notorious kingpin.
As customary for Escobar, he paid off killers to shed human blood. The DEA's relentless hunt for the notorious drug kingpin forced Escobar to issue two separate $300,000 bounties on the heads of agents Javier Pena and Steve Murphy.
Controlling The Dope
During the 19th century, Western commercial enterprises-controlled coca and cocaine. But Escobar made cocaine a patriotic business in Colombia. Forbes Magazine, in 1989, profiled Escobar as one of the world's billionaires, worth over $3 billion. He loved to share his wealth. Escobar was a brilliant criminal, spending millions of dollars on parks, schools, stadiums, churches, and even housing for the poorest of Medellin residents. In return, people loved him for his generosity. They saw him as a poor young man giving back to his community. Yet masked behind the Robin Hood personality, Escobar executed urban terrorism upon government officials, politicians, and law enforcement officers---anyone who crossed him or those he felt needed killing.
Escobar's famous quotes are:
(1) I prefer to be in a grave in Colombia than in a jail cell in the United States
(2) Everyone has a price; the important thing is to find out what it is.
(3) Sometimes I am God; if I say a man dies, he dies that same day.
Escobar's legacy is so powerfully profound until his gravesite is a popular tourist attraction in Colombia. Thousands and thousands flock to the site to pay their respects.
With over 1,300 people included in the "Boss of Evil," the series is filmed in more than 450 locations. Interestingly, the series was produced by relatives of two of the most high-profile victims killed by Escobar: Their names are Luis Carlos Galvan, a presidential candidate who campaigned as a hard-driven moral crusader against Pablo's drug operation, and Guillermo Cano, the publisher of the daily El Spectator newspaper. Producer Juana Uribe is the niece of Galan, and the second producer, Camilo Cano, is the son of Gano, the publisher.
The series' initial episode was reportedly inspired by the 2001 book "The Parable of Pablo", a book that attracted over 11 million viewers. Boss of Evil traces Escobar's life, from a timid young man growing up near the Northwest city of Medellin up to the infamous drug lord who amassed unrivaled wealth and influence before his violent end at the hands of U.S. DEA agents, Los Pepes, and other military forces. As the series plays out in foreign markets, viewership steadily increases.
- READ: The Real DEA Agents of Narcos: Javier Peña & Steve Murphy talk about what’s fact and fiction in Netflix’s hit series
Further, to capitalize on the notoriety, U.S. based Spanish language television channel Telemundo will start airing the series across America in late July or August, showcasing Escobar's infamous fame and how his legacy still makes him a billionaire both in life and death.
In an interview with Bogota reporters, Juana Uribe, said, "We all can remember a bomb set off by Escobar or experienced an attack either directly or indirectly. "What's important is to see the entire picture, how one thing led to another in his life." Uribe further says the series was filmed primarily on locations in Bogota, Medellin, and Miami, Florida, costing approximately $170.000.00 per episode.
"The series aims to show Escobar from all sides" and shed light on those who had the courage to confront him."
Sebastian Marroquin, the son of Escobar, who changed his name to cut ties with his father's legacy, told a prominent Spanish Internet portal that the drama series about his father sends the wrong message to young people. "They are saying it is glamorous to be a drug dealer, which is a danger to new generations." Producers are hoping to capture the historical accuracy of the story.
DEA Celebrates Escobar's Death
Toft continued with the recap of Escobar's death.
"When Escobar was killed, I was ecstatic because now I knew I could go back to the United States, feeling we achieved a major objective."
"However, Toft recalls, as I celebrated with the cops, shortly after Escobar's death--I had a knot in my stomach," Toft explains his uneasiness. "Because I knew the Cali Cartel played a major role in bringing down Escobar and the Medellin cartel. And in the process, the Cali Cartel further corrupted the Colombian police and made significant inroads into the Colombian government.
"It was a victory for law enforcement and a huge victory for the Cali Cartel."
Referring to the "Boss of Evil" TV series based on Escobar's life, Media Studies Professor Alberto Martinez stated to France24 International News, "I don't think the stated objective is being met. Instead, "kids see much more of Robin Hood than the criminal."
For the younger generation who fancied the wealth and power of Escobar's drug empire and if thinking about following in Escobar's footsteps, former DEA Joe Toft provides fatherly advice. "They should remember thousands of innocent people Escobar killed with his bombs in the streets and other terrorist acts. And I would remind them of the misery and death that his drugs brought to the people that used them."
Toft philosophically sums up the controversy surrounding the TV show. "Life is about making choices between good and bad. Choosing Pablo Escobar as a role model is a horrible choice."
Journalist Note: This article originally was published on July 27, 2012
Update: Since the release of "Boss of Evil" there have been several other films inspired by the life of Pablo Escobar or films based directly on Pablo's life and his drug empire.
Here's a list of films made about the fascinating life of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar since the release of Boss of Evil:
Netflix's Narcos, Blow, Paradise Lost, Infiltrator, Loving Pablo, "Pablo Escobar , le Patron du Mal", Pablo Escobar: Countdown to Death.
Any comments? Reach USA Criminal Justice/Drug Trafficking Crime Journalist Clarence Walker at email@example.com
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