Who caught Pablo Escobar

25 years agoWhen Pablo Escobar escaped from his luxury prison

"Report the drug dealers. We are looking for: Pablo Escobar Gaviria."

In the early 1990s, Pablo Escobar Gaviria, head of the powerful Medellín cartel, was Colombia's most wanted criminal. The poor man had become a billionaire producing and selling cocaine. In 1983 he tried to start a political career. But when Escobar was about to move into the Colombian parliament, the then Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla exposed his links to the drug mafia. Escobar lost his parliamentary seat and took revenge.

"I began to understand who my father really was when he had Justice Minister Lara Bonilla killed in 1984. After that, the state began to persecute my father and his family," recalls Pablo Escobar's son, Juan Pablo.

Pablo Escobar's son Juan Pablo wrote a book about his father (Imago / Agencia EFE)

War against opposing cartels and the state

From now on, the drug king waged war not only against opposing cartels, but also against Colombia's government, judiciary and police. Hundreds, probably thousands, of murders and attacks were carried out by Pablo Escobar and his assassins. Had the security forces succeeded in arresting him, Escobar would have threatened extradition to the United States, where he smuggled a large part of his cocaine.

"My father coined the phrase: Better a grave in Colombia than a prison cell in the United States."

In 1985, Pablo Escobar stormed the Palace of Justice in the capital Bogotá and killed eleven members of the Supreme Court. The violent pressure had an effect: the court declared extraditions of Colombians to the USA to be unconstitutional. But the subject was not off the table: a few years later, Colombia was again considering allowing the extradition of criminals. Pablo Escobar was able to prevent this: through terror on the one hand and negotiations on the other. On June 19, 1991, the Constituent Assembly voted in favor of an extradition ban - Escobar surrendered to justice on the same day. The drug lord announced:

"In response to the president and his cabinet's policy of peace and the strengthening of the judiciary, I am ready to spend as many years in prison as necessary to contribute to the peace of my family and the peace of Colombia."

All amenities in "La Catedral"

"La Catedral" - the cathedral - was the name of the prison he now moved into. The inmate had it built himself and enjoyed all the amenities there.

"It wasn't a prison at all. Escobar managed his own surveillance and did what he wanted," said Claudio Galán, son of a politician who was murdered by Escobar.

After a year, the five-star prison should be over. The government had learned that the drug dealer and his gang were going about their criminal business there unhindered and wanted Escobar to be transferred to a military garrison. When two government officials arrived in "La Catedral" on July 21, 1992, an uprising broke out. Escobar's men took the officials hostage and, after hours of chaos and shootings, managed to escape even in the early hours of July 22nd. Soldiers whom he had bribed helped the drug lord.

Merciless hunt for Escobar

"We, our security forces, have to search for Escobar, seize it and bring it to justice," said Colombian President César Gaviria after Escobar's escape.

The hunt for the felon that began was ruthless. Not only the police took part in it, but also paramilitaries and members of the cocaine cartels who were enemies with Escobar. The drug lord hid for 16 months, and his wife and children sought asylum in Germany in vain. In early December 1993, Pablo Escobar was tracked down in Medellín and died in a hail of bullets. According to his family, he shot himself.