On December 2 1993, Pablo Escobar, the world’s best known drug lord of all time was shot dead on a Medellín rooftop. Fifteen years later, Colombia is still associated with its most famous (but dead) citizen.
There are very few tourists that come to Medellín without knowing that back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s this was the kingdom of Pablo Escobar. From here he fought his war with the Colombian government and the North American DEA.
The spirit of Pablo is still in Medellín. Young wannabe gangsters born after his violent death idolize him and some people — unhappy with their current condition — will think back to those Escobar days with longing. Others, journalists, judicial workers, politicians, are more than happy that those days are over.
The death of the drug lord is still subject to speculation. The official version goes that Escobar was killed by security forces, but recently a former member of the paramilitaries said that it was AUC supreme leader Carlos Castaño himself who shot his former boss. Castaño’s assistant, Diego ‘Don Berna‘ Murillo Bejerano later took over the drug trade in Medellín and Antioquia.
Even after the death of Castaño and the demobilization and extradition of ‘Don Berna’ the drugs haven’t left the city. ‘Don Mario’ now allegedly controls the trade and neither the death of Escobar nor the persecution of his followers have seemed to diminish the production of one of the first world’s most famous drugs, cocaine.
Following the extradition of the paramilitary heads, violence in Antioquia and the northern department of Córdoba has gone up sharply again and hundreds die yearly in the battle over the drug trade in what used to be Pablo’s and only Pablo’s territory.
The terror of Pablo Escobar has ended and Medellín’s murder rate, despite the recent rise and the ongoing drug trade, is still much lower than it was before the drug lord’s death. But the mysteries involving his life and death, the urban myths that were created and books and documentaries he was starring in make it difficult to forget Pablo Escobar.
For some of the lesser fortunate it’s even a reason to yearn for the past.