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Inside the Life of Pablo Escobar

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria (December 1, 1949 – December 2, 1993) was a Colombian drug lord who trafficked cocaine throughout the world.  In 1989,Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be the seventh-richest man in the world with a personal wealth of close to US$25 billion while his Medellín cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market.  He owned numerous luxury residences, automobiles, and airplanes.

In The Accountant’s Story, Pablo’s brother, Roberto Escobar, discusses how Pablo rose from poverty and obscurity to become one of the wealthiest men in the world. At the height of its power, the Medellín drug cartel was smuggling 15 tons of cocaine a day, worth more than half a billion dollars, into the United States. According to Roberto, Pablo’s accountant, he and his brother’s operation spent $2,500 a month just purchasing rubber bands to wrap the stacks of cash—and since they had more illegal money than they could deposit in the banks, they stored the bricks of cash in their warehouses, annually writing off 10% as “spoilage” when the rats crept in at night and nibbled on the hundred dollar bills.

While in Medellin, Colombia I had the opportunity to write a story about Pablo Escobar in the eyes of his brother, Roberto Escobar, who was the financial accountant of Pablo’s money.   My goal of the interview was to find out what life was like for him and his brother during the height of their power.  I also wanted to find out what dreams Roberto sacrificed by joining and running the financials of the cartel.

I visited Roberto’s home on what would have been Pablo’s 62nd birthday.  When greeted by Roberto, he mentioned that although this was a sobering day for him, he was looking forward to sharing wine and cake at the table Pablo sat on his birthday 18 years ago, one day prior to his death on Dec 2, 1993.

Roberto first showed me two vehicles that have sentimental value to the family.  The truck on the right is a bulletproof Chevrolet given to the Medellin Cartel by the Cali Cartel before they started fighting.  As apparent from the crack in the passenger side window, the bulletproof glass saved Pablo’s life during a shootout.   The second vehicle was given to Pablo as a gift from Roberto and was the 5th car in Colombia.

We then looked at a motorcycle that was given to Pablo as a gift by Frank Sinatra.  It is the only motorcycle left in Pablo’s collection.  At one time he had a motorcycle at one of all of his 400 houses around the world.  Many of the houses still exists today and have money hidden at each.

In the foyer of the home was a picture of Pablo Escobar.  Roberto explained that a year ago some people broke

in with an attempt to kidnap him.  Although he was not home,  a gunfight broke out between the police that were stationed at the home and the 2 men.  One was shot and killed and the other ended up in the hospital.  Next we walked past the living room where another bullet had entered the home breaking through the glass and hitting the couch.  Here there is a wanted sign that has a $10,000,000 dollar reward for either Pablo or Roberto.

 We then entered Roberto’s cycling room, an area of the home that brought a big smile to Roberto’s face.  At one point, prior to the rise of the Medellin Cartel, Roberto was a highly ranked cyclist in Colombia.  The bike seen here is 1 of 4 in the world and was hand made and given to him as a gift.  The other 3 bikes are in the possession of the Pope, the prime minister of Canada, and the President of Italy.

Roberto then invited us into the dining room where Pablo had his last dinner on his birthday prior to his death the following day on Dec 1, 1993.  He poured wine and shared a slice of birthday cake, the same type of cake eaten by Pablo after his last dinner.  He shared with us the final conversation that took place between Pablo, his cousin, and Pablo’s top security guard on his final evening.  That night Pablo poured four glasses of wine for the three at the table.  The cousin asked, “why are you pouring a fourth glass, there is only three of us.”  Pablo said “The fourth glass is in honor of Roberto” (In jail at the time) “and the rest of our family and friends who could not join us tonight”.  Next a mosquito swarm around the head of Pablo and his security guard but not the head of his cousin.  The security guard showed concerned as he said this is a sign that something bad is about to happen.  Next as Pablo gives a toast to the night, a glass of wine fell to the ground without spilling any wine or breaking the glass.  The security guard showed further concern, however Pablo said “don’t worry about anything, we are going to enjoy our night”.

The next day, Pablo was in his home in Medellin speaking to his son over the phone.  Typically Pablo only speaks on the phone for one minute to keep the police from tracking him down, however on this day he was on the phone for 23 minutes with his son who he hadn’t seen in a year.  The police surrounded the home and Pablo went to the rooftop through a glass window.  There are many different stories that explain what took place next, however Roberto says that Pablo committed suicide on the roof before being shot to ensure he died in Colombia and that his body would be kept in the country.

His mom purchased the memorial where Pablo is buried many years prior to his death to ensure the family had a common memorial for the family.  On this day, flowers were placed on the grave by locals to pay respect to Pablo on his birthday.  Some locals liked Pablo Escobar because he built homes for the poor in the area he grew up, however many Colombians dislike him due to the fact he has tainted Colombia’s image.

When I asked Roberto if he could do it all over again, what dream would he have followed.  He stated, “I would have gone to medical school to become a doctor and helped people in need”.  Roberto also gave up his dream of being a world-class cyclist to work with his brother Pablo.

This was one of the most surreal interviews I’ve conducted.  Having wine and cake with Roberto Escobar to celebrate the birthday of one of the most wanted criminals in history provided mixed feelings.  I felt safe during the visit, however there were loud fireworks going off around the corner to celebrate the 1st of December.  I ducked at least three times as it sounded much like a war zone in the area.
Video about Pablo Escobar’s life:

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