Whether or not you’re a fan of Netflix’s Narcos, the odds are that you’ve probably heard of a Pablo Escobar. Known by many as the ‘King of Cocaine,’ it’s estimated that the Columbian druglord was responsible for 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the U.S. in the 1980s. As a result, Escobar was not only one of the richest men in the world during his prime, but he also became known as one of the fiercest druglords in history. Here you’ll get a crash course in who Pablo Escobar was and find out a little more about “Los Pepes,” a rival group that decided they’d had enough of his shenanigans.
Supercriminal and loving father
Make no mistake, Pablo Escobar was one fierce dude. It’s estimated that throughout the course of his life he was responsible for the deaths of around 4,000 people who made the mistake of getting in his way. Among his victims were about 200 judges and 1,000 cops, journalists, and government officials. Unfortunately for his enemies, this guy was absolutely loaded with cash and was once estimated to be worth around 30 billion dollars. As a result, he was virtually untouchable for many years as he enjoyed all the perks of the druglord lifestyle. Such perks were later revealed to include 142 planes, 20 helicopters, 32 yachts, two submarines used for smuggling drugs into the U.S. and, oh yeah, 141 homes and offices. He even had a private zoo, complete with hippos, elephants, and all sorts of other exotic animals. Though he’s no longer around, some of the hippos are still said to roam the grounds of the estate where the zoo was built to this day.
Now despite his, um, “character flaws” many people in Columbia really dug him. Though he could be a little testy if crossed him, he was also reported to be quite the family man. In 1976 he married a 15-year-old girl named Maria Victoria Henao Vallejo, despite the fact that he was already 27 years old. The two went on to have two children, a son named Juan Pablo and a daughter named Manuela. It soon became apparent that Pablo would do anything for his family and once ordered that a live horse be transformed into a unicorn in order to fulfill his daughter’s birthday wish. Later, when the family was in hiding, his daughter was getting a little sickly, so he decided to burn two million dollar bills in order to create a fire to keep her warm. By all accounts, he was also a loving husband while he was around, though his family was forced to seek asylum in Argentina after his death.
He was also sort of a man of the people and used his vast riches to fund programs for Columbia’s poor. He would make lavish donations to churches, hospitals, and food programs in an attempt to help out the people of his country. He also built things like stadiums, parks, and even a barrio. Consequently, he became pretty popular among many of the citizens of Columbia who took to calling him “Robin Hood” in addition to other nicknames like “Don Pablo” and “El Patron.” When he died, it’s estimated that 20,000 of his fans showed up to his burial.
World’s best prison sentence
Even drug lords have their fears, however, and Escobar’s biggest was extradition. When the government could no longer turn a blind eye to his antics, Pablo decided to make them an offer they couldn’t refuse. He agreed to surrender but only if he would not be extradited to the United States and could serve his five-year sentence in his own prison. When the government agreed, he then built himself a lavish “prison” that became known as La Catedral or “the cathedral.” The prison was more like an upscale Malibu beach resort and boasted its own gym, night club, industrial kitchen, sports facilities, and waterfall.
Though his imprisonment was obviously a sham, the government continued to look the other way until Escobar received a visit from two prominent members of Fidel Castano’s rival cartel. Apparently, the meeting did not go well, as the two visiting cartel members ended up dead at Escobar’s hands. Rather than explain himself to the government, Escobar decided it was time to jump ship and simply walked out of his prison in 1992.
Los Pepes decides enough is enough
That’s when Castano decided it was time to take things into his own hands and organized a sort of paramilitary group called Los Pepes. The name was short for “Perseguidos por Pablos Escobar” which means “People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar.” The group would receive backing from both rival cartels and even the CIA and U.S. government, which attempted to use Castano’s intelligence efforts to track Escobar down.
Los Pepes were not so much into peaceful protest and instead organized guns, ammo, and a series of bombings that attempted to take Escobar down. Due to the fact that the Columbian government’s attempts to subdue Escobar’s activities hadn’t proven to be super effective, they came to rely on Los Pepes to help them out. The group was able to eventually drive Escobar and his family into hiding and he set up shop in a middle-class barrio called Los Olivos in Medellin.
It was there that Colombian Intelligence finally caught up with him in December 1993, after intercepting a phone call Escobar made to his son. After chasing the notorious kingpin across the rooftops of Los Olivos, the police finally shot and killed him on December 2.