Did Pablo Escobar work for the CIA? The question is nothing new for conspiracy theorists who have long argued that the United States government's War on Drugs was actually a cover-up of its efforts to get in on the action, and a new memoir from an individual with a front row seat lends even more fodder to those suspicions.
Born Juan Pablo Escobar, Sebastián Marroquín now lives under a pseudonym in trendy neighborhood Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After a brief stint in Mozambique following the death of his father, the son of the notorious drug lord moved to the nearby South American country with his mother and sister.
While he was just in his teens when his father was killed in a shootout with Colombian police in 1993, Juan Pablo experienced an intense childhood that few can lay claim to. As the son of a notorious trafficker, the young Escobar recounts seeing piles of drugs laid out before him at 8-years-old His parental figure clearly wasn't shy about the family business, telling him as a child that he'd prefer he did drugs in the house if he was curious about them.
In his new memoir, Pablo Escobar In Fraganti: What My Father Never Told Me, the iconic drug trafficker's son shares these interactions to shed light on the man behind the legend, with one particular detail pushed to the headlines: Marroquín alleges that the CIA was closely associated with his father's business, according to an exclusive interview with Infobae.
"In my book, I tell the story of my father working for the CIA selling cocaine to finance the fight against Communism in Central America. There are names like George Bush, Sr. and many more."[Note: English subtitles can be added to this interview in the settings.]
Claims that the CIA was working with Latin American drug traffickers were so rampant at one point that several official U.S. government investigations were carried out to look into the allegations. The Reagan administration eventually admitted that the Contra rebels, which it supported in an effort to overthrow Nicaragua's Communist government, did indeed acquire funding from cocaine smuggling -- though it continued to deny that the U.S. government was complicit in this scheme, reported Associated Press.
Yet according to the son who spent his youth at the center of Pablo's drug empire, that's not true. Escobar argues that the government constructed an anti-drug policy that placed them at the top as the primary profiteers, all the while framing themselves as the strongmen preventing the scourge of drugs from reaching the American people.
"The business of drug trafficking is very different from what we imagine. What the CIA did was buy the controls that brought the drugs into their country... Drug prohibition is a great business for those who close off all the points of entry. I believe that prohibition is the best propaganda."Making the rounds to promote the release of his upcoming book, Juan Pablo also spoke to Argentine channel TN's program A Dos Voces. There he revealed fascinating tidbits, like a plot his father had to kidnap Michael Jackson, and further underlined the connection between Escobar and the CIA.
"He didn't make that money alone, but with the U.S. organizations that permitted his access to that money. He had direct relations with the CIA... the person who sold the most drugs to the CIA was Pablo Escobar."After revealing such information, Juan Pablo Escobar doesn't believe he will ever be able to safely travel to the U.S. again, but he says that exposing the reality is vital.
"I'm thankful to be alive. I believe that I care less about the fear of death than more important things, like bringing us closer to the truth."Despite the explosive nature of these allegations, American mainstream media has been silent on the news for nearly two weeks since Juan Pablo first gave the interview. While there are plenty of articles about the third season of Narcos, based on Escobar's drug empire, not one single English-language write-up appears in Google News.
That silence may, at least in part, be based on how controversial reporting about the links between Colombia's cocaine trade, the CIA, and the Contra rebels has gotten in the past. A series from the San Jose Mercury News in 1996 argued that Colombian drug rings were bringing massive amounts of cocaine into the U.S. and fomenting Los Angeles' crack epidemic, then subsequently escaping prosecution because of their links to the CIA and the Contra rebels.
The series, nicknamed The Dark Alliance, was heavily criticized by other media, including the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times, the latter of which ran a mammoth investigative series that failed to come up with enough evidence to back up the original article's claims. Other outlets were especially critical of the idea that the government was responsible for the explosion of the crack epidemic. After the original reporter, Gary Webb, made several trips to Nicaragua to gather more evidence, Mercury News eventually released an editorial saying that the report "did not meet the paper's standards." Webb did not agree with these conclusions and later committed suicide in 2004.
Since then, the role of the CIA has undergone multiple internal and congressional investigations, during which top CIA officials admitted that there did seem to be a link between cocaine smuggling and the funding of the Contra rebels. One former pilot told Sen. Gary Hart that he would bring back cocaine on the U.S. aircraft that he was sent to Nicaragua on to deliver arms to the Contra rebels. In 1998, CIA inspector general Frederick Hitz gave Congressional testimony indicating that drug smugglers were indeed part of the Contra program.
"Let me be frank about what we are finding: There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity or take action to resolve the allegations."
Of course, Juan Pablo Escobar does want to sell books, and linking the CIA to his father is an extremely effective way to attract press. His claims should be taken with a grain of salt, but they also do not exist inside of a vacuum: allegations of U.S. government involvement in the cocaine trade have waged on for decades, whether or not Pablo Escobar was working for the CIA.
[Featured Image by Fernando Vergara/AP Images]