"He didn't let three presidents govern. He transformed the language, culture, physiognomy and economy of the country. Before him, Colombians didn't know the word sicario, Medellín was considered a paradise, the world knew Colombia as 'the land of coffee', and no one thought that a bomb could explode there in a supermarket or on an airplane in flight. Because of Escobar, there are armored cars in Colombia and security needs have changed the architecture. He changed the judicial system, rethought prison policy and even the design of prisons, and transformed the armed forces. Pablo Escobar discovered, more than anyone else, that death can be the greatest instrument of power."
The paragraph is from an article published in the Bogotá magazine Semana after the death of Pablo Escobar Gaviria, which occurred on the afternoon of Thursday, December 2, 1993. Just a day earlier, the head and founder of the Medellín Cartel had turned 44 accompanied by his mother, who brought him a cake to his hideout, a middle-class house in Medellín's Olivos neighborhood.
Doña Hermilda Gaviria left him in the early hours of the morning, complaining of a persistent heartburn that had haunted him for some time. It was the last time the woman saw alive her favorite of her children, the third of seven she had with Abel Escobar.
With Pablo, only "Limón" (Álvaro de Jesús Agudelo, 37), a hitman and gang member of the cartel, who had started working for Roberto Escobar ("El Osito", Pablo's older brother) was left with Pablo and continued under the orders of "El Patrón" even when they were all abandoned.
"Limón" fell under the bullets of the Colombian National Police seconds before his boss and was immortalized in Argentina by a song by Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota: "They kill me, Limón!/ Hijueputas, Limón! / Through the roofs comes the block / again," the lyrics go. When Indio Solari speaks of a "bloc" he is referring to the Search Bloc created by the Colombian state to hunt down the capo of the Medellín Cartel.
In this June 1992 photo, drug lord Pablo Escobar, then leader of the Medellín Cartel, as he was imprisoned in the Envigado prison. Photo: AFP.
They searched for him for nearly 500 days after Escobar escaped from La Catedral jail by walking through the backdrop. The prison had been built by him, on his domain, and looked more like a country club than a prison. Only in this way – and by prohibiting the extraditions of drug traffickers to the United States – had the authorities managed to get him to turn himself in, in 1991.
The Cathedral was like his home and that's why he summoned and killed two of his associates there: Gerardo "Kiko" Moncada and Fernando "El Negro" Galeano, in July 1992. That ended up making a fool of the Colombian government, which then tried to start controlling the internal movements of La Catedral.
At this, Paul simply ran away. He kicked a fake plaster wall and left. He did so just a few days after the double murder of Moncada and Galeano.
Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's ID, credit cards and a criminal record certificate are emblazoned on a clothing collection created by his son. Photo: EFE / Leo La Valle.
He was never imprisoned again, but ended up dead. Having murdered his former associates (whom he accused of allying themselves with paramilitary leaders Fidel and Carlos Castaño) added him enemies from within his own ranks.
Because of his personality, eccentricities and capacity for destruction (he blew up a plane in flight with 100 people on top), Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was a figure in international drug trafficking that had never been surpassed... at least until the emergence and empowerment of Mexican Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Lorea, "El Chapo," leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.
The armed deployment that led to his death on December 2, 1993 lived up to his fame and his crimes.
The Medellín cartel's drug lord was killed in 1993.
At the end of his days, who was one of the most powerful and richest men on the planet, he ended up alone and surrounded by people whose only goal was to finish him off. Not only were the police and the army looking for him, but also the paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and a heterogeneous group calling themselves "Los Pepes" (Persecuted by Pablo Escobar).
"Daddy committed suicide," his son's conviction
It took his enemies 17 months to hunt him down.
To achieve this, they took advantage of Escobar's obsession with controlling the safety of his wife, Victoria Henao, and their children, Juan Pablo and Manuela.
His family lived practically as hostages of the police. The reason: in 1988 they had suffered an attack by the Cali Cartel on the Monaco building. It was a car bomb loaded with 80 kilos of dynamite.
Pablo Escobar Gaviria and family.
The Escobars knew they were under control, but Pablo still called the residence's phone. On December 2, he spoke for a few minutes with his son because Juan Pablo had to answer a questionnaire from Semana magazine that would be published as a report.
The young man was careful to keep his talks short. That day, the conversation came to an abrupt halt. Paul told John Paul that he would call him in 20 minutes. He couldn't keep his promise. The hunt was over.
The official version indicates that 14 men from the Elite Force command of the Colombian National Police participated in the operation: 12 surrounded the house and two entered through the main door and went to the top floor.
The transfer of the corpse of the "Patron". Photo: SYGMA / Claudia Giordanelli.
When they reached the top floor, they found the phone off the hook and the window open. They also met with Escobar and his bodyguard.
"Limon" was in front, was shot and fell into the street. Escobar was carrying a 9-millimeter Zig Hauer in one hand and a nickel-plated .22 pistol. He barely fired a few shots.
The narco leader was shot three times: one hit him squarely in the torso, another hit his leg, and the third entered through his left ear and exited through his right ear.
Escobar Gaviria was all looking for him. His hours were numbered.
The image of Escobar's barefoot corpse, reproduced ad infinitum, closed almost a year and a half of searching and traveled the world. However, he was unable to solidify a single version of the end of the Medellín Cartel kingpin.
Doubts about what happened on that terrace persist to this day.
The police always maintained that the shooter was Commander Hugo Aguilar, a character who would end up in politics after being dismissed for his links with paramilitaries.
Pablo Escobar's family claims that, when he was surrounded, the head of the Medellín Cartel committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. "Dad committed suicide," said the kingpin's son, who with his mother and sister settled in Argentina with new identities given to them by the Colombian government.
Victoria Henao Vallejos and Juan Pablo Escobar Henao, the widow and son of Pablo Escobar Gaviria, entering Court No. 3 of Morón, in a case for money laundering.
On the other hand, paramilitary drug lord Diego Murillo Bejarano, alias "Don Berna," said in his book "Así matamos el Patrón" that it was "Los Pepes" who found him and that the one who gave him the coup de grace was his brother Rodolfo, alias "Semilla."
Another sector of "Los Pepes" is attributed the authorship to Carlos Castaño, maximum leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.
It could have been anyone. They all had reasons and had dedicated their lives to ending his.
Pablo Escobar was 44 years old at the time of his death.
Luz Maria Escobar Gaviria lays flowers on her brother's grave in November 2013 at the Montesacro cemetery south of Medellin. Photo: EFE / Luis Eduardo Noriega.
Three decades have passed since that moment, a turning point in the history of international drug trafficking. Escobar died, but the cocaine trade didn't end with his death.
Colombia continues to be the world's leading producer of cocaine and, according to the United Nations, in 2022 the hectares dedicated to coca leaf cultivation increased by 43%.
No drug war seems to stop Escobar's legacy.
Since his death, the traffic has only grown, as has his collection of hippos: from those first three specimens of the Hacienda Nápoles that were his pets, about 100 offspring were born and became an environmental danger to the area.
It seems that not even the hippos of the "Patron" are resigned to oblivion.
One of the hippos of the Nápoles hacienda, which was owned by the late drug lord Pablo Escobar Gaviria, in the township of Doradal, municipality of Puerto Triunfo (Colombia). Photo: EFE/ Edgar Domínguez.