Pablo Escobar and the War Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Escobar would help to demonstrate that there is a fundamental danger that the tactics of extremity which are part and parcel to the War on Drugs will only beget the tactics of extremity which Escobar and his ilk have perpetrated. The continued tolls of the conflict are highlighted by individual instances of brutality that are only partially motivated by economics. As a means to an end, Escobar also filled his reign with examples of an almost frivolous type of savagery which may have been equal parts an interest in building his own fearful mythology and a true depravity which made him uniquely suited to form the foil to America's militarism. In the Grant text, some such acts are highlighted, giving evidence both of his cruelty and excessive financial capability, telling of the rumour that Escobar was about to pay off the national debt of Colombia (U.S.$10bn) as a bribe, or the murder of a policeman who refused to give bottled milk to Escobar's wife during an interrogation." (Grant, 1)

This interrogation would occur during Escobar's legendary 'capture' in 1991, at which time he would negotiate the terms of his own surrender with a hardline Colombian government intent on making an example of Escobar. Among the most notable conditions of his surrender would be the assurance that he would not be extradited to the United States. Thus, he would serve his term in what is often described as a cushy and extravagant private 'prison cell' nicknamed La Catredal. (Pearce, 1) During this time, Escobar's business would suffer little evidence of his absence, suggesting beyond a reasonable doubt that his captivity had neither curtailed his activities or slowed the pace of his profits.

Again, we may be hard pressed to say with certainty that all accounts of Escobar are true. It is entirely conceivable that details will have been inflated, distorted or fabricated. But we do know that the extremity of his actions and the sense that he had come to unfairly dominate the Colombian market would come to earn him a great many enemies even beyond the United States and its shaky allies from within the Colombian government. Critics of the War on Drugs "assert that, despite the seizures, Colombia's cocaine output stands at an all-time high, that rival traffickers now outproduce the Medellin Cartel and that three of Escobar's associates -- the brothers Jorge Luis, Juan David and Fabio Ochoa-have continued to supervise drug operations from prison since their surrender several months ago." (Boudreaux, 1)

And if that was not significant indication of the will to act according to his own designs, Escobar escaped during a 1992 prison transfer and turned to a life on the run. During this time, the enemies which he had gathered through the extremity of his tactics would come home to roost. With the Colombian and American governments applying considerable pressure in the armed hunt for an escaped convicted felon, now stripped of his immunity, Escobar would ultimately be forced into the waiting arms of his greatest enemies. Indeed, "many critics argue that during his time on the run, Escobar faced more pressure from a group of drug traffickers who had defected from his organization and from the Cali cartel than he faced from the government. His enemies formed an organization called 'People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar' (PEPES) and launched a wave of ruthless attacks on Escobar's associates and family, killing several of his lawyers and drug traffickers." (Ambrus, 1)

And truly, it would be the combined intensity of these pressures that would ultimately expose Escobar to the barrage of police bullets that would fell him in 1993. Though deceased, and in a manner perhaps fitting of one who lived as he did, Escobar remains a palpable symbol in both Colombia and the United States, where his inextricable affiliation to the drug trade demonstrates, for all sides in the War on Drugs, a policy of aggression run amok.

Works Cited

Ambrus, S. (1993). Colombia Drug Lord Escobar Dies in Shoot out. Los Angeles Times.

Boudreaux, R. (1991). Colombia Drug Lord Surrenders Cocaine: Pablo Excobar, object of a seven-ear manhunt, turns himself in afater a promise of leniency and a guarantee against extradition to the United States. Los Angeles Times.

Eldredge, D.C. (1998). Ending the War on Drugs: A Solution for America. Bridgehampton, NY: Bridge Works.

Grant, S. (2001). Book Review: Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden. The Independent. Online at

Pearce, D. (2006). The Life and Death of…

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