To most of the world, Pablo Escobar was a ruthless cartel leader who murdered thousands and was instrumental in bringing cocaine into the United States.
Escobar started as a petty criminal, stealing cars and selling cigarettes, but moved to cocaine in the 70’s, becoming the most notorious and richest drug capo in the world.
To people in his hometown of Medellín, Escobar was Robin Hood.
“El Patrón,” as he was known, built housing projects for the poor, soccer fields for the community, and funded many of the town’s infrastructure.
He was such a popular figure, he was elected to the Colombian Congress which helped him avoid extradition to the U.S.
At the time, Columbia had a weak central government, corruption was rampant throughout the country, and there was a decades-long civil uprising by guerillas. All of this stretched Columbia’s military and other officials thin and coupled with the growing demand for narcotics in the U.S., it was a perfect storm for Escobar to succeed.
His Medellín Cartel brought in a reported $22 billion per year and Escobar was named the seventh richest person in the world by Forbes Magazine in 1989.
Escobar’s drug cartel frustrated the U.S. who knew who he was but not how to nab him.