Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was born on 1 December 1949, in Rionegro, in the Antioquia Department of Colombia. He was the third of seven children of Abel de Jesús Dari Escobar Echeverri (1910–2001), a farmer, and Hemilda de los Dolores Gaviria Berrío (d. 2006), an elementary school Teacher. Raised in the nearby city of Medellín, Escobar is thought to have begun his Criminal career as a teenager, allegedly stealing gravestones and sanding them down for resale to local smugglers. His brother, Roberto Escobar, denies this, instead claiming that the gravestones came from cemetery owners whose clients had stopped paying for site care, and that he had a relative who had a monuments Business. Escobar's son, Sebastián Marroquín, claims his father's foray into crime began with a successful practice of selling counterfeit high school diplomas, generally counterfeiting those awarded by the Universidad Autónoma Latinoamericana of Medellín. Escobar studied at the University for a short period, but left without obtaining a degree.
Escobar eventually became involved in many Criminal activities with Oscar Benel Aguirre, with the duo running petty street scams, selling contraband cigarettes, fake lottery tickets, and stealing cars. In the early 1970s, prior to entering the drug trade, Escobar acted as a thief and bodyguard, allegedly earning US $100,000 by kidnapping and holding a Medellín executive for ransom. Escobar began working for Alvaro Prieto, a contraband smuggler who operated around Medellín, aiming to fulfill a childhood ambition to have COL $1 million by the time he was 22. Escobar is noted for his bank deposit of COL $100 million (more than US $3 million), when he turned 26.
In The Accountant's Story, Roberto Escobar discusses the means by which Pablo rose from middle-class simplicity and obscurity to one of the world's wealthiest men. Beginning in 1975, Pablo started developing his cocaine operation, flying out planes several times, mainly between Colombia and Panama, along smuggling routes into the United States. When he later bought fifteen bigger airplanes, including a Learjet and six helicopters, according to his son, a dear friend of Pablo's died during the landing of an airplane, and the plane was destroyed. Pablo reconstructed the airplane from the scrap parts that were left and later hung it above the gate to his ranch at Hacienda Nápoles.
In March 1976, the 26-year-old Escobar married Maria Victoria Henao, who was 15. The relationship was discouraged by the Henao family, who considered Escobar socially inferior; the pair eloped. They had two children: Juan Pablo (now Sebastián Marroquín) and Manuela.
Soon, the demand for cocaine was skyrocketing in the United States, and Escobar organized more smuggling shipments, routes, and distribution networks in South Florida, California, and other parts of the country. He and cartel co-founder Carlos Lehder worked together to develop a new trans-shipment point in the Bahamas, an island called Norman's Cay about 220 miles (350 km) southeast of the Florida coast. According to his brother, Escobar did not purchase Norman's Cay; it was, instead, a sole venture of Lehder's. Escobar and Robert Vesco purchased most of the land on the island, which included a 1 kilometre (3,300 ft) airstrip, a harbor, a hotel, houses, boats, and aircraft, and they built a refrigerated warehouse to store the cocaine. From 1978 to 1982, this was used as a central smuggling route for the Medellín Cartel. With the enormous profits generated by this route, Escobar was soon able to purchase 7.7 square miles (20 km) of land in Antioquia for several million dollars, on which he built the Hacienda Nápoles. The luxury house he created contained a zoo, a lake, a sculpture garden, a private bullring, and other diversions for his family and the cartel.
At one point it was estimated that 70 to 80 tons of cocaine were being shipped from Colombia to the United States every month. In the mid-1980s, at the height of its power, the Medellín Cartel was shipping as much as 11 tons per FLIGHT in jetliners to the United States (the biggest load shipped by Escobar was 51,000 pounds (23,000 kg) mixed with fish paste and shipped via boat, as confirmed by his brother in the book Escobar). Roberto Escobar also claimed that, in addition to using planes, his brother employed two small submarines to transport the massive loads.
In 1982 Escobar was elected as an alternate member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia, as part of a small movement called Liberal Alternative. Earlier in the campaign he was a candidate for the Liberal Renewal Movement, but had to leave it because of the firm opposition of Luis Carlos Galán, whose presidential campaign was supported by the Liberal Renewal Movement. Thanks to his seat in the parliament, Escobar was the official representative of the Colombian government for the swearing-in of Felipe González in Spain.
It is alleged that Escobar backed the 1985 storming of the Colombian Supreme Court by left-wing guerrillas from the 19th of April Movement, also known as M-19. The siege, which was done in retaliation for the Supreme Court studying the constitutionality of Colombia's extradition treaty with the U.S., resulted in the murders of half the judges on the court M-19 were paid to break into the Palace and burn all papers and files on Los Extraditables — a group of cocaine smugglers who were under threat of being extradited to the U.S. by the Colombian government. Escobar was listed as a part of Los Extraditables. Hostages were also taken for negotiation of their release, thus helping to prevent extradition of Los Extraditables to the U.S. for their crimes.
When questioned about the essence of the cocaine Business, Escobar replied with "[the Business is] simple: you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back." In 1989, Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be one of 227 billionaires in the world with a personal net worth of close to US $3 billion while his Medellín Cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market. It is commonly believed that Escobar was the principal financier behind Medellín's Atlético Nacional, which won South America's most prestigious football tournament, the Copa Libertadores, in 1989.
Soon after Escobar's death and the subsequent fragmentation of the Medellín Cartel, the cocaine market became dominated by the rival Cali Cartel until the mid-1990s when its Leaders were either killed or captured by the Colombian government. The Robin Hood image that Escobar had cultivated maintained a lasting influence in Medellín. Many there, especially many of the city's poor whom Escobar had aided while he was alive, mourned his death, and over 25,000 people attended his funeral. Some of them consider him a saint and pray to him for receiving Divine help.
The Colombian cartels' continuing struggles to maintain supremacy resulted in Colombia quickly becoming the world's murder capital with 25,100 violent deaths in 1991 and 27,100 in 1992. This increased murder rate was fueled by Escobar's giving money to his hitmen as a reward for killing police officers, over 600 of whom died as a result.
After the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán, the administration of César Gaviria moved against Escobar and the drug cartels. Eventually, the government negotiated with Escobar and convinced him to surrender and cease all Criminal activity in exchange for a reduced sentence and preferential treatment during his captivity. Declaring an end to a series of previous violent acts meant to pressure authorities and public opinion, Escobar surrendered to Colombian authorities in 1991. Before he gave himself up, the extradition of Colombian citizens to the United States had been prohibited by the newly approved Colombian Constitution of 1991. This act was controversial, as it was suspected that Escobar and other drug lords had influenced members of the Constituent Assembly in passing the law. Escobar was confined in what became his own luxurious private prison, La Catedral, which featured a football pitch, giant doll house, bar, jacuzzi and waterfall. Accounts of Escobar's continued Criminal activities while in prison began to surface in the media, which prompted the government to attempt to move him to a more conventional jail on 22 July 1992. Escobar's influence allowed him to discover the plan in advance and make a well-timed escape, spending the rest of his life evading the police.
16 months after his escape from La Catedral, Pablo Escobar died in a shootout on 2 December 1993, amid another of Escobar's attempts to elude the Search Bloc. A Colombian electronic surveillance team, led by Brigadier Hugo Martínez, used radio trilateration Technology to track his radiotelephone transmissions and found him hiding in Los Olivos, a middle-class barrio in Medellín. With authorities closing in, a firefight with Escobar and his bodyguard, Alvaro de Jesús Agudelo (a.k.a. "El Limón"), ensued. The two Fugitives attempted to escape by running across the roofs of adjoining houses to reach a back street, but both were shot and killed by Colombian National Police. Escobar suffered gunshots to the leg and torso, and a fatal gunshot through the ear.
Escobar's widow (María Henao, now María Isabel Santos Caballero), son (Juan Pablo, now Juan Sebastián Marroquín Santos) and daughter (Manuela) fled Colombia in 1995 after failing to find a country that would grant them asylum. Despite Escobar's numerous and continual infidelities, Maria remained supportive of her husband, though she urged him to eschew violence. Members of the Cali Cartel even replayed their recordings of her conversations with Pablo for their wives to demonstrate how a woman should behave. This attitude proved to be the reason the cartel did not kill her and her children after Pablo's death, although the group demanded (and received) millions of dollars in reparations for Escobar's war against them. Henao even successfully negotiated for her son's life by personally guaranteeing he would not seek revenge against the cartel or participate in the drug trade.
Escobar's sister, Luz Maria Escobar, also made multiple gestures in attempts to make amends for the drug baron's crimes. These include making public statements in the press, leaving letters on the graves of his victims and on the 20th anniversary of his death, organizing a public memorial for Escobar's victims. Escobar's body was exhumed on 28 October 2006, at the request of some of his relatives in order to take a DNA sample to confirm the alleged paternity of an illegitimate child and remove all doubt about the identity of the body that had been buried next to his parents for 12 years. A video of the exhumation was broadcast by RCN, angering Marroquín, who accused his uncle, Roberto Escobar, and cousin, Nicolas Escobar, of being "merchants of death" by allowing for the video to air.
In 2007, the Journalist Virginia Vallejo published her memoir Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar (Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar), in which she describes her romantic relationship with Escobar and the links of her lover with several Presidents, Caribbean dictators, and high-profile politicians. Her book inspired the movie Loving Pablo (2017).
Two major feature films on Escobar, Escobar (2009) and Killing Pablo (2011), were announced in 2007. Details about them, and additional films about Escobar, are listed below.
Among Escobar's biographers, only Vallejo has given a detailed explanation of his role in the 1985 Palace of Justice siege. The Journalist stated that Escobar financed the operation, which was committed by M-19. She would go on to blame the army for the killings of the Supreme Court judges and the M-19 members detained after the coup. These statements prompted a reopening of the case in 2008, and when Vallejo was asked to testify in the reopened Palace case, most of the events she had described in her book and testimonial were confirmed by Colombia's Commission of Truth. These events led to further investigation into the siege, which led to a high-ranking former colonel and a former general being sentenced to 30 and 35 years in prison, respectively, for the forced disappearance of the detained after the siege. Vallejo would subsequently testify in the case of Luis Carlos Galán's assassination, which had also been reopened. She would accuse several politicians, including Colombian Presidents Alfonso López Michelsen, Ernesto Samper and Álvaro Uribe of having links to drug cartels. Her cooperation in the cases saw Vallejo being granted political asylum in the United States on 3 June 2010.
In 2014, Roberto Escobar founded Escobar Inc with Olof K. Gustafsson and registered Successor-In-Interest rights for his brother Pablo Escobar in California, United States.