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What’s the Problem with Masculinity?
Murderer, philanthropist, drug dealer, politician, devil, saint: many words have been used to describe Pablo Escobar, but one is irrefutable - legend. For the poor of Colombia, he was their Robin Hood, a man whose greatness lay not in his crimes, but in his charity; for the Colombian rich he was just a bloodthirsty gangster, a Bogie Man used to scare children in their beds; for the rest of the world flush with his imported cocaine, he was public enemy number one.
His ambition was as boundless as his violence, and neither was ever satisfied. This is the first major, and definitive, biography of this remarkable criminal life, told in jaw-dropping detail by the one man who, more than any other, can understand just how far he came and just how low he fell: his brother, Roberto Escobar. About the Author Roberto Escobar operated for over fifteen years as the accountant for Pablo Escobar's Medellin drug cartel. After handing himself into the Colombian authorities in , he was placed in a maximum security prison, until his release in He now lives on a farm in rural Colombia.
Although Roberto was never as extravagant as his brother, he was accustomed to flying on private jets, and sent his children to a Swiss boarding school. Once, during an extended hike through the forest to elude capture, he threw a briefcase containing a hundred thousand dollars into a river, because it was heavy. One recent morning, a group of visitors from the United States and Europe arrived in a chauffeured van—part of a growing influx of narcoturistas, who come to see the places where Pablo Escobar lived and worked.
Roberto, seventy-one, still looked like an accountant; he wore khakis, a blue short-sleeved shirt, and thick-rimmed spectacles. While he was in prison, a letter bomb delivered to his cell exploded, leaving him blind in his right eye and deaf in his right ear. His damaged eye was a milky blue, and he periodically squirted drops of medicine into it. Roberto was a gruff tour guide, hustling guests from room to room, but his visitors seemed too awestruck to complain. An exterior wall was speckled with ragged bullet holes, the result of a kidnapping attempt. Inside, a Jet Ski—supposedly one that Roger Moore used in a James Bond film—sat near a photograph of Escobar driving it across bright-blue water.
Beneath a writing desk in the living room, Escobar lifted a plank to reveal a hidden compartment. In the dining room, he pointed to an oil painting of a brown stallion, a racehorse named Earthquake. Angrily, he recounted how enemies had stolen the horse from him and returned it castrated. In , Roberto founded a holding company, Escobar, Inc. But he is a minor player in a growing industry. An increasing number of people who knew Pablo Escobar—employees, relatives, and enemies—are trying to sell versions of his epic life and death, encouraging a cottage industry of books, television shows, and documentaries.
Netflix does not disclose viewership numbers, but the audience for the show, which will launch its fourth season this year, has been estimated at three million.
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In , Escobar, Inc. No one disputes that Pablo Escobar was a murderer, a torturer, and a kidnapper. At his zenith, he was the most notorious outlaw on the planet, with control of some eighty per cent of the cocaine entering the U. In Colombia, his legacy touches nearly everyone, but few people agree on whether his story should be seen as entertainment or as a cautionary tale.
Before I left, I asked him why his brother continued to inspire people around the world. It was a kind of catechism; he did not explain further. Correa, an amiable man of sixty-three, was bald and corpulent, and dressed in a gray suit, a pink shirt, and a burgundy tie. He began hanging out with the crowd at Las Dos Tortugas, coming and going on a Lambretta motorbike. Escobar found his niche as the U. When Correa assured him he could, the pistolero gave him an order. After that, the gangsters started buying perfume for their girlfriends, and Correa became known as El Perfumero.
Correa took pleasure in associating with men who had monikers like Filth and Spider. Some were policemen, who came to change out of their uniforms and then attack their colleagues. Correa was fascinated, and gradually he became a welcome visitor. My friends warned me that I would be dead within six months. One day, he recalled, some Escobar men began discussing a murder they were planning. We trust you. But the morbid curiosity—you know, it was like Alka-Seltzer.
I felt something here, inside me. When Escobar began to establish himself as a public figure, in the early eighties, he found other people willing to tell his story without judgment. Semana described Escobar as a politically ambitious and civic-minded thirty-three-year-old businessman who owned an immense private ranch and a fleet of helicopters and airplanes. Escobar, undaunted, joined a different branch of the Party, with the help of a powerful, corrupt senator named Alberto Santofimio.
At the moment he is moving forward with a program to build a thousand homes on a giant lot he owns. His electoral ambitions did not go very far. Escobar fought back, falsely accusing the minister of being in the pocket of narcos. But then an influential newspaper editor named Guillermo Cano dug up an old news story showing that Escobar had been arrested, seven years before, for the possession of thirty-nine pounds of cocaine.
Escobar was ejected from Congress, and the F. He went underground, and a long hunt began. Escobar spent seven years as a fugitive, but his concern was less the Colombian justice system than the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. To force the state to withdraw from its extradition treaty with the U. To force the government to negotiate, he abducted prominent Colombians, many of them journalists, including the daughter of a former President. His fans love it. The YouTube show has some six hundred thousand subscribers, mostly young, right-wing men.
A slim, youthful man in his mid-fifties, with short-cropped silver hair and a camera-ready smile, he wore jeans and a black T-shirt, and his neck and arms were tattooed. The apartment had the feeling of a studio set. In the living room, a large window looked out on an adjacent apartment tower, and a camera on a tripod was placed near it.
On the walls, an oil painting showed two cocks fighting against a black backdrop; another depicted an army of sperm breaking into eggs. The narcoturistas are coming to Colombia in part because the country is experiencing unusual stability, after decades of vicious fighting. In , the government, led by President Juan Manuel Santos, signed a peace treaty with the Marxist guerrilla army known as the FARC , ending a half-century insurgency. Popeye wanted no part of it. Popeye was not opposed to violence. Uribe denies the accusations. However, his brother is on trial for leading a terror group, and numerous associates of his have been imprisoned for similar crimes.
He had killed innocent people, he said, and cut victims into pieces, but had done so because his enemies had done that to his people, too.
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Anyway, in those days it had been his job. He had been fighting what he thought was a war against a corrupt state and its extradition treaty with the United States. How did he sleep at night? By getting in bed, pulling up the covers, and closing his eyes. Popeye complained that he had done his time and had helped prosecutors with investigations, but still the authorities interfered with his efforts to make a living, through his books and films.
On his YouTube show, he claims that the police frequently stop him to ask questions about being involved in the cocaine trade. My apartment is nothing fancy, and my car is ordinary. I found my beautiful 9-millimetre Pietro Beretta. Popeye stood and retrieved the gun, and, holding it by the barrel, he handed it to me. It was heavy, and looked real. Understanding that he meant to demonstrate that the gun was fake, I pointed the pistol at his cockfight painting and pulled the trigger.
The apartment exploded with the bang. Popeye looked startled, and went to the door and opened it.
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The hallway was empty. I could be murdered here and nobody would come. Popeye laughed. He autographed a DVD copy for me. Knowing that I planned to see the mayor, he dedicated another to him, and asked me to give it to him on his behalf. In the past two decades, it has transformed itself, with significant investments in public transport, including a cable car that links the hillside slums to the city center, and a revamped downtown, with a botanical garden, a concert area, and an interactive science museum for children.
For the Mayor, understandably, Popeye represents a public-relations problem. A slender man of forty-three, he wears his hair long, in the manner of a soccer player, and favors jeans and dress shirts with the top button loose.
The terrible reign of cocaine king Pablo Escobar - Telegraph
Politically, he is right of center. But these are the laws. Peace and love. The real heroes are their victims. We want to be a symbol of what happened—a city that collapsed but got to its feet again. The unofficial tours frequently stop at the Monaco Building, an eight-story brutalist apartment tower of reinforced concrete, in the affluent Poblado district, that Escobar built for his family. When he got it, he said, he would invite me to watch the demolition.
He kills the first one by beating him to death with a pool cue; when he is finished, his face and clothing spattered with blood, his men beat the other one to death. The story on which the scene is based is hardly less gruesome. Both the imagined scene and the real killings took place in La Catedral, the prison where Escobar was held after striking a deal to turn himself in, in The prison did little to restrain him; his sicarios served as guards, and he remained involved in the cocaine trade.
The road to La Catedral is winding and steep, full of switchbacks and narrow bridges that hang over mountain streams. On the morning of my visit, clouds obscured the valley, and everything was damp.
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