Pablo Escobar Research Paper


Pablo Escobar: A Classic Anti-Hero
Pablo Escobar established his reputation as a modern-day Robin Hood: a man who genuinely did come from a humble working class background and who at some point did actually give a lot of money away to social service organizations in Colombia. He was also an astute businessman who recognized trends and opportunities in the illicit drug trade. Yet Escobar was no hero; he was “violent” and “ruthless,” (“Pablo Escobar Crime Files,” 1) and was directly responsible for “terror campaigns that resulted in the murder of thousands,” (“Pablo Escobar Biography,” 1). This dichotomous figure has become one of the world’s most notorious anti-heroes. He became so iconic as to have his story been made into numerous television shows and films, such as the Netflix series Narcos. Escobar’s story reveals the inherent problem with the war on drugs, and signals the need for change in international drug policy.

Escobar was born on December 1, 1949 in Rionegro, Antioquia. His father was a manager of a farm, and his mother was a teacher at a rural school. While his family was not poor, they were certainly not rich either. However, Escobar’s father worked for a man named Joaquin Vallejo Arbaláez, who became Pablo’s godfather. Arbaláez had served as a United Nations delegate and was a “highly respected intellectual,” perhaps the first person to inspire Pablo towards positions of power and leadership (Thompson.55). In fact, Arbaláez has been credited with inspiring the teenage Escobar to become politically active, to serve in local community groups and in student organizations too (Thompson 55). Escobar continued to participate in political activity throughout his life, which is one of the reasons why he became known as more than just a drug lord but also as a politician.

Yet the young Escobar lacked access to wealth or public influence, which might have been why he initially turned to illicit activities in order to build himself a reputation and a bankroll. While in high school, he had a reputation for mischief. He started to steal tombstones, rubbing off the names to sell them to Panamanian smugglers (“Pablo Escobar Crime Files” 1). He also reportedly sold fake diplomas (“Pablo Escobar Biography” 1). Then, Escobar shifted to higher stakes crimes like car theft and dealing drugs. His start in the drug trade began with cannabis, and then he made a name for himself in cigarette smuggling during what has been since dubbed the “Marlboro Wars,” (“Pablo Escobar Biography” 1). Escobar played a “high profile role” as a cigarette smuggler, which “proved to be a valuable training ground for the future narcotics kingpin,” (“Pablo Escobar Biography” 1).

In the early 1970s, Colombia was a hub in the cannabis trade, but had yet to establish itself as ground zero for cocaine. Escobar changed that. He...…in a dramatic shift in how the public perceived him. Escobar went from being the Robin Hood of Medellin to being just another cartel leader. It is estimated that Escobar killed thousands of people (“Pablo Escobar Biography” 1). In 1991, he surrendered to the Colombian government in exchange for their agreement not to extradite him to the United States. Remarkably, the Colombian government agreed to allow Escobar to live sequestered in the lap of luxury, a “prison” he designed himself replete with “casino, spa, and nightclub,” (“Pablo Escobar Biography” 1). In June of 1992, Escobar managed to escape after he found out the authorities decided to move him to a standard prison. He was caught in Medellin in 1993, and died after a dramatic rooftop shootout with the police.

Escobar left a colorful and controversial legacy in Colombia. Oddly enough, his death did not result in the total dismantling of the cocaine trade and the data actually reveals the opposite. In the years following Escobar’s death, production of cocaine increased by a rate of 143% (Kenney 188). Moreover, Medellin has experienced a cultural revival since Escobar’s death and the downfall of his Medellin cartel. In fact, local tour companies offer Escobar-themed tours and peddlers sell Escobar-themed souvenirs to tourists who romanticize the drug lord (Pobutsky 684). Escobar’s legacy and the public’s ongoing fascination with organized crime perhaps signals a new direction in international drug policy.…

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