Pablo Escobar is, to date, hailed as the most ambitious drug lord to ever have lived. Born in 1949 in Antioquia, Colombia, he began trading cocaine in the 1970s, and by the late 80s, he and the Medellin cartel, which he headed, controlled 80 percent of the cocaine market in the United States. He came from a humble background.
Having started as a petty thief, Pablo Escobar sometimes stole cars in his early years and was introduced to the smuggling business during the “Marlboro Wars” period. He played a prominent role in controlling the cigarette black market in Colombia. It is the experience that he got from this that enabled him to become a successful cocaine trafficker. The following is an excerpt on this and how he grew his cocaine trafficking network, according to Crime and Investigation.
“It was in the early 1970s that he entered the cocaine trade and began buying high-grade coca paste from Bolivia and Peru. He processed it into cocaine, which he transported to America for distribution. Escobar’s drug business began to grow and, requiring a greater workforce, he decided to collaborate with other criminal groups in the area and together they formed the Medellin Cartel. When the well-known Medellin drug dealer, Fabio Restrepo, was murdered in 1975, Escobar became head of the Medellin Cartel and his brother, Roberto, handled the accounts. It was believed that Escobar had arranged for Restrepo’s murder for this very end.”
The Medellin cartel’s key members were Jorge Ochoa, Juan David, and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha. However, the entry of another member changed the fortunes of the cartel forever. And that was Carlos Lehder. Born to a German father and Colombian mother, Carlos was gifted in sorting out complex issues and could fly any type of plane. He had, before joining the cartel, worked as a small-time drug dealer in Michigan and had been incarcerated for car theft.
Upon being released, he made the decision to take advantage of the growing cocaine market in the United States by teaming up with George Jung, a friend who had experience flying planes loaded with marijuana from Mexico to the United States. He and his partner first enlisted girls to smuggle cocaine from Antigua to the United States in suitcases, and soon, they bought themselves a plane. It was at this time that Carlos approached members of the Medellin Cartel into joining forces.
Pablo Escobar was to handle the production and supply of cocaine while he and his partner would handle distribution to the United States through low-flying planes. For the purpose of convenience, Carlos bought an island known as Norman’s Cay. He is said to have used the island to bring tons of cocaine into America on a daily basis, making him and members of the Medellin cartel very rich.
The letter ends as follows as translated by Google Translate.
“With humility and the hope of the paisa arriero, expelled from Colombia, I have remained and survived 28 years in captivity… I am getting close to 70 years of age and deserve to die in Colombia.”
[AP Photo/Luis Benavides]