Without a doubt, Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel is one of the most famous criminal organizations in the world, despite its end in the early nineties. The Medellin was pretty well organized for a cartel, and it seemed to have an almost irresistible power to corrupt.
When the cartel was at its most powerful, it accounted for 96% of the cocaine in the United States and had control over 90% of the world's cocaine market.
Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel practically took over Columbia, disrupting law enforcement and local politics. For that reason, the Colombian government stopped at nothing to make sure the cartel was finally stopped.
Several other governments were also working to ensure the criminal organization was put to an end when Escobar was finally killed.
Pablo Escobar was the leader of the cartel, and his death dealt a severe blow to the organization. He was responsible for corrupting the police and ensuring the cartel ran smoothly.
That said, Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel had many leaders, and they had racked up hundreds of crimes over the years. They also owned a lot of things, including planes, yachts, and allegedly, submarines.
How Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel Rose To Power
Escobar was born in 1949 in Rionegro before his family moved to Envigado. His family was of modest means, and he always harbored ambitions of becoming influential in the future.
In fact, he had political ambitions and was even elected as an alternate member of Colombia's Congress in 1982. However, the justice minister revealed that Escobar's wealth was gotten through crime, and he had to resign. The justice minister eventually got killed.
Escobar began a life of crime when he was just a teenager. At the time, he sold fake diplomas and resold stolen tombstones. He was arrested after stealing a car in 1974.
He soon got involved in the cocaine trade and helped establish Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel in the mid-70s.
As the head of the Medellin Cartel, Pablo Escobar was known as the "King of Cocaine." The organization produced, transported, and sold cocaine.
He also managed to become one of the wealthiest criminals in history. Escobar once made $2.1 billion in a single year. At one point, he even appeared in Forbes's ten richest people in the world. His wealth was so vast that he managed to set up his own zoo.
When he met his brutal death, he was worth $30 billion, but it's widely believed he had hidden assets.
He had owned a 7,000-acre estate called Hacienda Napoles, and it had artificial lakes, a soccer field, an airstrip, and even a bullfighting arena.
He was a ruthless and unforgiving criminal to the world, but Medellin residents considered him a generous and wealthy businessman. He made donations to the children of the poor and helped out in the slums.
The Cartel Shipped Drugs All Around The World
Escobar's cocaine business took off in the late 70s. There was an increased demand for psychoactive drugs in the 60s, and with Colombia offering the tropical climate that was ideal for growing the coca plant, Escobar was in a perfect position to become a solemn cocaine dealer.
When he first started, he was smuggling coca paste from the neighboring countries, refining it, and getting mules to smuggle it to the US using luggage or condoms.
Over time, he partnered with two other members who became a critical part of the cartel, Carlos Lehder, and George Jung. Together, they would set up flights into South Florida using small biplanes that could fly under the radar and land on unmarked dirt roads.
Escobar also got his cousin, Gustavo de Jesus Gaviria Rivero, to work for the cartel. Rivero helped establish routes for the cartel. Eventually, he became the public face of the notorious Medellin Cartel.
When the authorities tried to crack down on the drug trade, Rivero found ways to hide the drugs in legitimate shipments such as clothing and appliances. The drugs could be mixed in fruit pulp and other things and then extracted by chemists after these products got to the United States.
Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel also kept changing its bases, resulting in the birth of additional cartels such as Sinaloa, Juarez, and Tampico cartels.
Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel Committed Many Evils
Pablo Escobar was famous for solving his problems using "Plata o Plomo" ("silver or lead"). That meant he used either bribes (silver) or bullets (lead).
Obviously, as a criminal organization, the Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel committed several crimes that went far beyond trafficking in illegal drugs. It is estimated that the cartel was responsible for about 4,000 murders.
However, it is possible that a lot more murders were committed by the criminal organization but went unreported due to fear of retaliation. Sometimes, bribes were involved, which helped keep some of the crimes a secret.
An estimated 1,000 of these deaths were of Medellin police officers and journalists. About 200 judges and government officials also lost their lives to Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel.
For instance, Luis Carlos Galan, a presidential hopeful, was killed just as he was about to get on stage to give a speech to 10,000 people.
Their most notable crime was the murder of 107 people after setting up a bomb on Avianca Flight 203 to kill Cesar Gaviria Trujillo, a presidential hopeful.
How Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel Came Crushing Down
After a bloody reign, the 1980s spelled doom for Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel. The War on Drugs was declared as drugs had become incredibly common in inner cities within America.
The United States put a lot of pressure on Colombia to catch Escobar and other members of the Medellin Cartel.
Even with the extradition treaty and the increased effort by the local police, Escobar was not easy to capture. In fact, he swore that he would never surrender.
He declared that he would prefer a grave in Colombia to a jail cell in the United States.
The US sent two officers to help out in Colombia, and Escobar put a $300,000 hit on both of them. This severely limited their ability to help as they had to be overseen by local authorities.
However, more people rose up to stand up against Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel, including PEPES (People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar).
Pressure mounted, and rival cartels tried to plan Escobar's surrender in 1991. Still, the drug lord had no intention of being locked up like other drug traffickers. In June, on the day the country's congress voted to ban extradition under a new constitution, he gave himself up.
He wanted to be locked up at La Catedral, a luxurious prison he had built on a hill close to Medellin. The prison had a nightclub, a sauna, a soccer field, and even a waterfall. It also had computers and fax machines. However, before he could get there, he escaped.
Nevertheless, the experience changed him and filled him with paranoia. He ended up killing two of his friends, and that scared others close to him, who decided to call the police on him with tips about his location.
Pablo Escobar's Death
Pablo Escobar died a day after his 44th birthday on December 2, 1993. That brought an end to the reign of one of the most powerful drug traffickers in the 1980s and 1990s.
During a phone call with his son, Juan Pablo Escobar, he took too long, and the phone was tracked. His location was enclosed, and he was gunned down.
Although his death was undoubtedly a blow to the Medellin Cartel, it did not exactly mean that the organization had collapsed entirely. The cartel had pretty efficient drug trafficking routes, and they were still in use after Escobar's death.
However, Medellin changed in a big way. When Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel dominated the town, there were about 6,000 homicides every year. Today, the city is filled with skyscrapers and apartments. The city has also grown considerably.
Escobar has been the inspiration behind many books, movies, and television shows, given his towering influence in the criminal world.
The Netflix show, Narcos, which is based on Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel, has been criticized by his son, Juan Pablo Escobar. He has tried to distance himself from his infamous father. Juan described his dad as "not a person to be imitated."
Juan is currently a motivational speaker who uses the name, Sebastian Marroquin. He has a book titled Pablo Escobar: My Father. Pablo Escobar's home, Hacienda Napoles, has been turned into a theme park. Clearly, Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel will not be soon forgotten.