The 2nd of December of 1993 at 14:59 in Medellín, one of the most influential criminals of the history of the 20th century was gunned down by a special unite of the Colombian police leaded by Colonel Hugo Heliodoro Aguilar. It was 15 years ago when Pablo Escobar, the strongest man of the Colombian mafias, was intercepted by the authorities due to a call he did to his family. Escobar was talking by phone with his son from a street of Medellín. He said “Te dejo porque aquí está pasando algo raro” (I let you, because something odd is happeing here). Those were his last words and then he received three shots and one in his head. His bodyguard was also shot dead.
Colonel Aguilar shouted happily when he was sure that it was real the fearsome Escobar, the same that some years before could paid a sicario to make him a muñeco (kill him). Aguilar said “Es Pablo, es Pablo… ¡Viva Colombia! ¡Está muerto!” (It is Pablo, he is Pablo… Viva Colombia! He is dead!) But… was Pablo Escobar, the capo, the czar of the drugs, a real muñeco-dead?After 15 years of that December, when all the Colombian mass media concentrated in Medellín and showed to the world the images of a dead body surrounded by a special corp of the National Police, some scholars think that Pablo Escobar still alive in the mind of many and in the Colombian reality in different ways.
He was a man of popularity and contrasts. His life was a myth full of heroism and terror. A hated man by his enemies and a loved one by those who received his benefits. Different books have been written since that 2nd of December by the hand of noticeable writers like Gabriel García Márquez (“The History of a Kidnapping”); the Colombian model Virginia Vallejo, the then called “Girlfriend of the Mafia” (“Loving Pablo. Hating Escobar”); the report of Mark Bowden, “Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw”; Fabio Castillo “The Riders of the Cocaine” and many other works and documents on this single man who was able to checkmate a whole country, while filling the world with tons of cocaine.
Fabio Giraldo, (1) lawyer and social researcher of University of Antioquia, said that after 15 years of his dead, Colombia is full of “Pablos and little Pablos”. The drug cartels still intact and growing. There is only a difference: Pablo crushed the Colombian society, but the current mafia comes inside the society, inside the national economy, the State institutions and the politics without the shows of heroism of Escobar that attracted so much publicity at his time. According to Marta Peña, (2) social resercher of the Popular Institute of Training, the violence that came from the drug cartels and that became a cultural element, became into a political phenomenon because Pablo Escobar. He taught many how to do politics and impose points of view through terrorism and dead.
His dead was not the end of the Colombian problems with violence and corruption. He was one of the greatest in those subjects, but there were many others like him going around Colombia and Latin America, ready to pass the exams of history. He was killed in 1992, but Medellín, the second largest urban center of the nation, would see 42,393 murders between 1992 and 2002, making the city the most violent of Latin America by that time.(3) He let an army of adolescents, the sicarios (hired killers), boys – and girls in many cases -, ready to kill for money, kids as young as 12 years old from the poorest slums, the same ones he showed his deep Christian charity feelings building dignified housing, schools, roads, playgrounds and, of course, employment in the Medellín Cartel, sending cocaine to USA and Europe through thousand of young people acting as mules. Escobar filled the empty social spaces let by a distance State, settled in a far and cold capital like Bogotá, so much concentrated in making new laws that nobody would follow in a country where everybody seemed to have his own law. Medellín, like Bogotá, Barranquilla and Cali, like Monterrey, Mexico, Rio de Janeiro and Lima, was actually a place made by two cities: the one of the modern and industrialist life plus that Medellín of the slums, where “civilized” people does not go. But Pablo Escobar yes: he had charity and love for the poor, as nobody else, said many, those who went to his burial, as a popular hero. While the international media was showing the images of the destruction made by Pablo Escobar in his war against the Colombian State (“I prefer a tomb in Colombia than a cell in the United States”, he said), thousand of families from the slums praised him like their savior. And he still today. His tomb became a tourist spot for foreigners willing to take a picture at the side of the most fearing criminal of the modern times. Others go to pray him like a saint, to ask favors, in the same way they ask to Mary Help of Christians, “Our Lady of the Assassins” as She was called by Fernando Vallejo in his book (La virgen de los sicarios).
We are going to need more time to kill Escobar. Maybe the same time Germany took to kill Hitler or Italy Mussolini. A so strong figure can not be deleted from history like that. We need a strong figure maybe: one that can be so near to the needs of the poor, but not putting bombs to the rich or killing journalists, policemen, politicians, governors and senators. One who will replace the drug production for a production of life and development. A leader with that same intelligence, but for good. One that would make us forget the nightmares that Colombians have passed along the last fifty years. Peace upon his tumb?
(1-2) “Pablo Escovar Gaviria: 15 años después de su muerte”, Caracol, 30 de noviembre de 2008.
(3) JIMÉNEZ MORALES, German (2007): «Violencia en Medellín equivale a borrar del mapa un municipio», en Periódio El Colombiano.