ῳ Free Format Kindle Download ↴ Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries  ´ Kindle Author Kim MacQuarrie ” ῳ Free Format Kindle Download ↴ Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries ´ Kindle Author Kim MacQuarrie ” Life and Death in the Andes 1 THE HUNT FOR PABLO ESCOBAR AND THE SEARCH FOR EL DORADO COLOMBIA He stated that Colombia was a land rich in emeralds and gold he told of a certain king, unclothed, who went on rafts on a pool to make oblations anointing all his body with a quantity of ground gold gleaming like a ray of the sun and the Spanish soldiers then gave that king the name El Dorado the Golden One Juan de Castellanos, 1589 Sometimes I am God if I say a man dies, he dies that same day There can only be one king and that king is me Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medelln cartel, who spent seven years on Forbes magazines billionaire list 19871993 Someday, and that day may never come, Ill call upon you to do a service for me But until that day, accept this retribution as a gift on my daughters wedding day Don Corleone, The Godfather, 1972 Knock, knock, knock The knock on Colonel Hugo Martnezs door that signaled his possible death came at 11 30 a.m on a Wednesday morning in the La Castellana neighborhood of Bogot The knock came during the height of the Medelln drug wars and, Martnez knew, the only way to access Martnezs home on the fifth floor of this particular upscale apartment tower was after being screened by the watchman downstairs It was the latters job to confirm whether the apartment dweller was there, to ask for the visitors name, and then to announce the visitors arrival via the intercom Only if an occupant granted permission was a visitor allowed to enter the building, which was mostly inhabited by the families of high ranking Colombian police officers On this particular morning, however, the intercom had been silent It must be a neighbor, Colonel Martnez thoughtbut how had anyone known that he was here The colonel, whose job was to hunt down the leaders of the Medelln cartel, moved carefully to the door All about him, on the floor, lay shards of glass from the bomb explosion outside that had shattered the windows and his television set a week before Knock knock knock The colonel was a lean man, six foot tall and forty nine years old, with short cropped brown hair and closely set, coffee colored eyes Hed been in the midst of packing up his familys belongings when the knock caused him to momentarily freeze The apartment had lain empty for a week, the clock still ticking silently on the wall, clothes strewn about, his childrens toys in their rooms, just as they had left them before his wife and two children fled No one was supposed to know that he was here, alone in this particular apartment and in Bogot at this particular time So who was knocking at the door A week earlier, the cartel had exploded a powerful bomb in the street below, spewing jagged shrapnel and creating a cloud of smoke that had risen into the air A number of people had been wounded, although none had been killed Martnez had been two hundred miles away in Medelln at the time and had called his wife frantically when hed heard Hed then flown back to Bogot and had arranged for her and their children to go into hiding The cartel, Martnez realized, could have killed his entire family Instead, theyd chosen to send the bomb as the sort of message they knew the colonel would understand We, the Medelln Cartel, know your family lives here We can kill them anytime we wish If you continue to pursue us, your family will cease to exist This is a warning For much of the last three years, Colonel Martnez had been living an almost monastic life in Medelln There, he was quartered on a police base with the rest of the handpicked members of the special police force that hed helped to create and currently ledel Bloque de Bsqueda the Search Bloc In 1989 the Colombian government had selected Martnez to command what both he and his fellow officers believed to be a suicidal mission hunting down Colombias most powerful and feared drug lord, Pablo Escobar, and dismantling Escobars Medelln cartel Martnez hadnt wanted the job In fact, most of his colleagues felt that hed be dead within a few months, if not weeks But an appointment was an appointment, Martnez believed After all, hed spent his entire life in the police, ever since becoming a cadet Duty was duty If he didnt do it, then someone else would be ordered to instead After years of giving and receiving orders, Martnez wasnt about to disobey one now At the same time, the colonel realized, perhaps thats why hed been given the mission in the first place While others might resign or try to pass the assignment on, Martnezs superiors knew that he was one of the few who never would He was well known, in fact, as the kind of officer who got things done His record was clean Hed not only obtained the rank of colonel but also had graduated from law school at the top of his class Martnez was now middle aged, was married with three kids, and was on track to become a general But only if he could survive his present mission Martnez and his family had been living in Bogot when hed received his new command The assignment called for Martnez to move immediately to Medelln There, he was to conduct operations in a city where the cartel had already paid off most of the local police Law enforcement in Colombia was a poorly paid profession, after all, while drugs were bringing in billions of dollars Corruption was at an all time high So many Medelln judges, police, and politicians were on the cartels payroll, in fact, that Pablo Escobar was considered untouchable in his hometown The cartel, of course, made the payments to protect its major businessthe exportation of cocaine Bribes were thus one of the cartels unavoidable operating expenses If certain individuals proved troublesome and could not be boughtor if other individuals cheated or betrayed themthen Escobar and the cartel employed a veritable army of thousands of specialized hit men, called sicarios,I who enabled the cartel to enforce its will By the late 1980s, some two thousand sicariosmostly young teenagersswarmed Medellns crowded streets, often riding tandem on the backs of small motorcycles The one in front was the designated driver the one behind, the shooter Escobar, who, according to some, had worked as a sicario himself in his teens, had sent out word to his young killers regarding the kind of assassinations he preferred two bullets in the forehead, placed just above the eyes A person might survive one of those bullets, Escobar advised, but never two In Medelln, assassination for the cartel was such a lucrative business that an entire cottage industry had sprung up With an ever increasing number of targets, delivering death smoothly, rapidly, and anonymously had become a highly sought after skill By 1989, the year that the colonel and four hundred members of the Search Bloc arrived in Medelln to take on Escobar, Medelln was already considered the most dangerous city in the world No other metropolis came close to the rate at which living human beings were so abundantly converted each day into the dead That the members of the Search Bloc would be exposed to extreme danger was a given for that reason, neither the colonel nor his men had brought their families along To have done so would have immediately transformed their loved ones into targets for the cartel Instead, the Search Bloc families lived in various homes in other cities and frequently moved for security reasons Recently, as the Colombian government had turned up the pressure on the cartel and violence had correspondingly increased, Colonel Martnez and his wife had abruptly withdrawn their children from school Even a police escort could no longer guarantee their safety No, after the recent bomb explosion outside, the colonel realized, even Bogot had become too dangerous For that matter, so had practically every corner of Colombia To Martnez, the cartel increasingly seemed like an enormous octopus with innumerable tentacles, some thick, some small, with tentacles constantly sprouting The cartel could reach whomever it wanted, even outside of Colombia Anyone who, for any reason, tried to stop or hinder the cartels growth automatically became a target for assassination Knock, knock, knock The knocks were harder, louder, insistent Whos there Martnez called out There was silence Then a muffled voice Who is it he called again This time, he heard a name A name he recognized But it was a name he hadnt heard in years Martnez opened the door Before him stood a man about forty five years old, dressed in a suit and tie, with brown skin and a pained expression on his face It was a man Martnez recognizeda former police officer whom he hadnt seen in than four years The officer had once lived in a house alongside his own in another city, and Martnez had once asked him, because of certain irregularities, to resign The man stood there, a look of shame mingling with fear on his face He had difficulty meeting the colonels eyes I come to you with a message, mi colonel, he finally said I come to you obligated Martnez looked at him, frowning The man then looked up The message is from Pablo Escobar, he said If I didnt cometheyd kill me Or my family Thats the threat Im under Martnez stared at his former colleague, still wondering how hed appeared so easily at his doorway Whats the message he finally asked Escobars sent me to offer you six million dollars The man looked at Martnez carefully, judging his reaction, before continuing The only thing he asks is that you keep on working, that you continue your job, that you keep carrying out operations But, he added, staring hard at the colonel, if youre sending an operation to capture himthen you must first make a phone call To let us know If you agree, then the money will be delivered to any account you want Six million dollars, the man repeated Colonel Martnez stared at the former officer, who was clearly uncomfortable and sweating, despite the cool air Two thoughts now entered the colonels mind The first was the realization that Escobar was making him the standard cartel offer of plata o plomo, silver or lead Literally, money or death The bomb explosion a week earlier had been the first part of that offerthe threat of plomo, or deathunless Martnez changed his behavior Now his former colleague was here with the second part the plata or, in this case, the 6 million It was up to Martnez which to accept The second thought that entered Martnezs mind, as he watched the cartels messenger shift uneasily before him, was that Escobar wouldnt be making this offer if he wasnt feeling pressure Already, the colonel and his men had captured or killed some of Escobars top lieutenants, including Escobars cousin Henao, his right hand man Escobar, the colonel now realized, must be worried His offer was thus a sign of weakness, not strength Tell them you couldnt find me, Martnez said quietly But, mi colonel, I cant do that, the man pleaded We never spoke, the colonel said firmly And then, despite the mans pleading, the colonel closed the door When Pablo Escobar was seven years old and his eldest brother, Roberto, was ten, armed mobs, or Chusmeros, arrived in the village of Titiribu where the Escobar family lived, with the intent of slaughtering the inhabitants The year was 1959 and, as Escobars older brother Roberto later recounted, They came to our town in the middle of the night, dragging people out of their houses and killing them When they reached our house they started banging on the doors with their machetes and screaming that they were going to kill us Most of the inhabitants in Escobars village belonged to Colombias Liberal Party The armed mob, by contrast, was made up of Conservatives Eleven years earlier, in 1948, the internal tensions in Colombia had come to a head with the assassination of a Liberal political candidate, Jorge Gaitn, who was predicted to win the presidency Gaitns death became a trigger point that set off in Colombia a kind of collective nervous breakdown, unleashing a home brewed explosion of violence that was as brutal as that in Rwanda some forty years later If, as the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz said, War is simply a continuation of policy by other means, Gaitns death motivated Colombians to take their political opinions out of the realm of the ballot box and into the countryside, where ideology was now enforced with machetes, knives, and guns In a country with only eleven million inhabitants, three hundred thousand Colombians soon lost their lives in the violent mayhem that ensued Another six hundred thousand to eight hundred thousand were injured To make matters worse, in Colombia the transformation from political discourse to open civil war had a particularly barbarous edge the goal became not simply to kill ones opponents but to do so in the most horrific manner possible During the mass hysteria that would later become known as La Violencia, methods of murder became so ghastly that a new lexicon emerged new forms of language had to be invented for acts that had never before been seen, or at least not to such extremes or on such a scale Colloquialisms soon sprang up, for example, such as picar para tamal, to cut like a tamale, which in this case meant to slowly chop a persons body apart until he or she died Death through bocachiquiar derived from the manner in which Colombian fishermen cleaned bocachico, a fish so scaly that numerous slits had to be cut into its flesh in order to remove the scales In the human version, a person was sliced repeatedly until he or she bled to death Village wide rampages broke out that included cutting off peoples ears, scalping inhabitants alive, bayoneting children and babies, and, for men, inflicting the signature corte de corbata, or tie cutwhich meant cutting someones throat open and then pulling out his or her tongue through the open wound Thus, eleven years after Gaitns assassination, when shouts, lights, and torches arrived at the Escobars home in the middle of the night, the entire family knew what probably lay in store for them According to Pablos brother, Roberto, as fists and machetes began to bang on their door, and as the screams of neighbors punctuated the night, My mother was crying and praying to the Baby Jesus of Atocha She took one of our mattresses and put it under the bed, then told us to lie there silently and covered us with blankets I heard my father saying Theyre going to kill us, but we can save the kids I held on to Pablo and our sister, Gloria, telling them not to cry, that we would be all right The door was very strong and the attackers failed to break through it, so they sprayed it with gasoline and set it on fire At the last minute, just before the Escobars were roasted alive, the Colombian army arrived and put the crazed marauders to flight When shortly afterward soldiers banged on the Escobars door, telling them it was safe to come out, at first the family didnt believe them Eventually, forced out by the intense heat, the family stumbled into what was now a ravaged village, the soldiers leading the Escobars and other survivors to the local schoolhouse Recalled Roberto, Our road was illuminated by our burning house In that strange light I saw bodies lying in the gutters and hanging from the lampposts The Chusmeros had poured gasoline on the bodies and set them on fire, and I will remember forever the smell of burning flesh I carried seven year old Pablo Pablo held on to me so tightly, as if he would never let go The sudden and savage outbreak of violence made it obvious to the rest of the world that Colombia, for whatever reason, had been a country coiled like a spring, a spring to which had been fastened hand grenades The assassination of Gaitn had in fact cracked the countrys normally polite exterior and had allowed its inner tensions to explode, much as lava occasionally bursts forth through sudden cracks in the Andes It wasnt the first time, however, that Colombia had suffered such a fiery eruption Fifty years earlier, between 1899 and 1902, another civil war had broken out, one equally as savage and during which eight hundred thousand people had been slaughtered, or about 20 percent of Colombias population The immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age old inequities and untold bitterness, wrote the Colombian novelist Gabriel Garca Mrquez in his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, and not a conspiracy plotted by Communists three thousand leagues from our home Historians would agree Most state that the roots of modern violence in Colombia stretch all of the way back to the original Spanish conquest That is when a band of fewer than two hundred Spanish conquistadors, led by thirty one year old Gonzalo Jimnez de Quesada, arrived in 1537 upon a high plain dotted with Indian villages The Spaniards were searching for an Indian chief named Bogot who was rud to possess great quantities of gold They soon stumbled upon the Muisca culture, a loose confederation of Native American states whose inhabitants lived in conical huts, practiced agriculture on abundant, fertile fields, wore cotton tunics, and mined or traded for emeralds, copper, and gold Each Muisca state had a chief, or cacique, and the confederationssome of the most complex to have ever existed in the Andescovered a mountainous area the size of Switzerland The Muisca spoke Chibcha, part of a language family that extended up into lower Central America Like many other native South Americans, individuals did not own property Instead, the land, water, and game animals were commonly owned The Spaniards, by contrast, who had arrived from a Europe that had only recently invented capitalism, saw not a commons but a land ready for the takinga country that was ripe for the institution of private property to be introduced Here, fields, plains, and forests could be seized and demarcated resources could then be quickly scooped up and exported for profit Wrote one sixteenth century chronicler, When the Spaniards set their eyes on that land of Colombia , it appeared to them that they had reached their desired destination Therefore, they set out to conquer it Wrote another, Marching along on the campaign, Jimnez de Quesada initiated the conquest of this New Kingdom they entered the territory of the most important lord in all the land they call him Bogot it is rud that he is extremely rich because the natives of this land claim that he has a house of gold and a great number of very precious emeralds Gold, emeralds, and the idea of quickly obtained wealth excited the conquistadors to a man for, as the historian John Hemming noted, The men who went on these ventures were not mercenaries they received no pay from the expeditions leader They were adventurers who took passage to the Americas in the hope of making their fortunes In the early days of the conquests, any reward for these desperadoes had to come from the Indians themselves They were predators hoping for easy plunder Their food and personal service came from the Indians they hoped to rob The Spanish adventurers were like packs of hounds, roaming the interior to pick up a scent of gold They sailed across the Atlantic full of bravado and ambition and then filled the tiny coastal settlements, hoping to grow rich as parasites on the native population On the high, fertile plains where later the Colombian capital of Bogot would be founded, Jimnez de Quesada and one hundred and sixty six menthe only survivors from the nine hundred men who had begun the expedition two years earliercontinued searching for the Indian lord, Bogot Recounted one chronicler, The next day they continued ahead two leagues where they came across a brand new settlement, recently built by a great lord Bogot The town was quite splendid the few houses were very large, and made of finely worked thatch The houses were well fenced, with walls made from cane stalks, elegantly crafted two walls enclosed the entire town and between them was a great plaza A message was sent to tell their cacique chief to come forward and make friends with the Christians If he did not, the Christians would raze the town to the ground, and wage war against those who chose not to come in peace Chief Bogot, for reasons that seem obvious today but for some reason were not so obvious to the Spaniards, refused to come out as desired The Spaniards then, true to form, immediately began killing and enslaving the local population, seizing their emerald mines, capturing the native chiefs, killing or ransoming some of them for gold, and gathering up as many portable resources, or spoils, as they could After eventually murdering chief Bogot, the Spaniards then hunted down one of the Muisca federations last remaining leaders, demanding that the latter turn over the supposed fortune in gold they suspected chief Bogot had hidden from them Wrote a chronicler The captured chief Sagipa responded that he would, with great pleasure, give them the gold He asked them to extend him a reasonable deadline in order to do so, promising that he would fill a small house with Bogots gold but he needed a few days in order to gather it but when the deadline expired Sagipa had not complied He handed over three or four thousand pesos of fine and low grade gold, and nothing Seeing this, the Christians began to plead with Lieutenant Jimnez de Quesada to place Sagipa in irons and have him tortured after which point the Christians proceeded to torture Sagipa in order to compel him to hand over Bogots gold and confess where he had hidden it in the end, Sagipa died Chief Sagipa didnt just die, of course rather, he was tortured to death A few days later, the Spaniards founded Santa F de Bogot, which ironically means The Sacred Faith of Bogot, named after the very native chief whom they had just murdered Thus, amid the despoiled Muisca highlands, smeared with blood, gold, emeralds, and death, began Colombias written history, a first bloody chapter that set the stage for many to come One day at the Hacienda Npoles, the luxurious country estate and hideaway that Pablo Escobar owned about a three hour drive from Medelln, he was entertaining guests beside his kidney shaped swimming pool when an employee was led out before him In the distance, on the haciendas grounds, imported giraffes, ostriches, and gazelles gamboled about A bit farther away, in a nearby river, feral African hippopotami snorted water and wiggled their ears Escobar had imported four of these massive animalssome of the most dangerous in Africaand their numbers were increasing On this particular day, Escobar was dressed in his trademark blue jeans, white Nike tennis shoes, and a T shirt The employee who now stood before him with bound hands had been caught stealing from one of the estates many rooms, Escobar was told He was a thief Youre lucky you confessed, Escobar told his captive calmly and in his usual quiet voice Because that way you protected your family As the guests lounged in their chairs and sipped from their drinks, Escobar rose and methodically began kicking and beating the man until he fell to the ground The worlds wealthiest and most powerful drug baron, who by this time owned than four hundred properties in Colombia and nineteen mansions in Miami, each with its own heliport, now proceeded to savagely kick the man until the latter fell into the pool As the mans thrashing body sank slowly toward the bottom, Escobar returned to his guests Now, where were we he asked them with a smile I meet retired general Hugo Martnezthe man who once turned down 6 million rather than sell his soul to Pablo Escobarin an upscale apartment tower in the Chico Norte neighborhood of Bogot, in the condominium of one of his friends The general doesnt like to have visitors at his home, I am told by his friend Maria, a journalist who spent time covering Martnez and the Search Bloc during the height of their war against the Medelln cartel He prefers to meet people he doesnt know outside of his home No doubt from his years of being pursued by the cartel, I reflect The general is now sixty nine years old, yet remains tall and lean, his dark hair shot through with gray He has thin lips, a soft handshake, close set eyes, and looks Spanish or European in complexion When in 1989 Hugo Martnez was assigned the job of going after Escobar and the cartel, he had been a colonel Today the retired general is wearing slacks, a gray sweater, a pressed shirt with thin blue stripes, and is amiable and relaxed Twenty years after his epic battle with Escobar and the cartel, the memories of that period still remain fresh in his mind They also remain seared into the collective mind of many Colombians Even so, perhaps, as only recently a lengthy television series called Pablo Escobar El Patrn del Mal Pablo Escobar The Boss of Evil , was broadcast throughout the country It was the most expensive and successful television series in Colombian history, with millions tuning in every evening The series was only the latest offering, however, in a plethora of Colombian crime dramas dealing with narco trafficking, many of which tend to paint the lives of various drug lords as colorful while at the same time portraying the police officers and politicians who pursue them as corrupt Colombians are fascinated by all of this, Maria tells me But they dont know the reality the younger generation doesnt know how brutal it all was The man selected to hunt down Escobar, meanwhile, was born in a small town called Moniquira about eighty miles northwest of Bogot Moniquira was the kind of town where people rode about on horseback and wore ruanas, Colombias traditional woolen ponchos Both Martnez and Escobar, in fact, were born into the lower middle class and grew up in large families Escobar had six brothers and sisters Martnez had eight Escobars father was a small farmer Martnezs was a small shop owner selling suitcases and leather goods Escobars maternal grandfather, however, was a well known bootlegger who used to smuggle locally brewed liquor in bottles hidden inside coffins Martnezs family, by contrast, had a long military thread running through it Martnez had an uncle who had been an admiral in the navy Another relative had been an army general Not surprisingly, as a young boy Martnez joined the Boy Scouts I have some photos of myself with other scouts, Martnez tells me, breaking into a laugh as he remembers it Were standing around, and all the kids are relaxed And there I am, stiff and straight as a board in my uniform and very serious I was about eight years old, he says, shaking his head When Martnez began secondary school, his family sent him to a nearby town as a boarding student, as his home town had only a primary school Martnez boarded with a local family One day during Easter vacation, when most of the students had returned to their home towns, Martnez was still living as a boarder when two older friends arrived with a friend for a visit All three were cadets living in a different town The newcomer was about Martnezs size so Martnez asked him if he could try on his uniform The cadet agreed and changed into regular clothes I took off my clothes and put on his uniform, Martnez says, straightening himself up and throwing his shoulders back Then I stood before the mirror, put on my cap, and went out into the street I spent the entire afternoon walking around, showing off I even played billiards for a while Finally, the cadet was searching everywhere until he found me Hey What got into you he said You almost got me kicked out of cadet school As a boarder, Martnez was somewhat isolated, so he spent a lot of time reading, mostly dime novels about gunfighters in the Old West and especially crime novels I liked to read stories about solving crimes, about bandits, he tells me But the funny thing is, when I finally joined the policeit wasnt anything like the novels Nor was wearing a uniform or handling a gun like he had imagined it By the time he, too, became a cadet, hed had to polish and press his uniform so many times that he no longer enjoyed wearing one Martnez soon experienced the same disenchantment with guns When you first become a cadet, you see that everyone else is carrying a rifle and a sword But you are given nothing, only a stick, which you simulate a rifle with That lasts for eight months, eight months during which you cant carry a guninstead you learn to clean it and polish it and assemble it By the time the eight months are overyou no longer want a gun Or a uniform A maid brings us a plate of cookies, cakes, and espressos, setting them down before us on a knee high table Martnez doesnt touch the sweets but does take an espresso Hes straightforward and a good communicator, occasionally touching ones arm for emphasis, as many Colombians like to do Hes relaxed and has no airs about having been a general Martnez sips the bittersweet coffee and continues Despite his aversion to guns and uniforms, he says, he did like his classes in criminology He liked studying sociology When he finally graduated and was a young sub lieutenant, his superiors sent him to Bogot for the first time, to complete a year of prctica At the end of that year, the station where he was assigned threw a party for him, as he was about to be transferred to another locale At the party he met a girl named Magdalena, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen Martnez was twenty three She was seventeen He asked her for her phone number and she complied Their first date was a movie A year later, when his superiors told him that he was about to be transferred to another city, he knew he had to make a decision She was very pretty, so I knew if I didnt marry her, she would no longer be mine, he tells me, draining his espresso and setting the cup back on the table Martnez asked his father for advice If you love this girlmarry her his father counseled If you dont love her, leave her So Martnez married Magdalena, started a family, and gradually began moving up through the ranks first sublieutenant, then lieutenant, then major For a safety net, however, Martnez decided to study at night for a law degree, which he felt would complement his day job Five years later, he graduated at the top of his class As an award, he received a scholarship to study criminology for a year in Spain By the time he was in his forties, Hugo Martnez was a colonel in the national police, had a law degree, and had studied advanced criminology abroad Working as the commander of a police school in Bogot, he also supervised the work of intelligence officers who analyzed crime data from every region of Colombia By now, Martnez and his wife had three children, the eldest of which, Hugo Martnez Jr., had just become a police cadet and seemed destined to follow in his fathers footsteps All was running smoothly until, on August 18, 1989, the news broke that a presidential candidate named Luis Galn had just been assassinated, most likely by the Medelln cartel Galn was a front runner in the presidential elections and had sworn to uphold the current extradition law, which allowed Colombian criminals to be extradited to other countries such as the United States A few days after Galns assassination, Martnez learned that the government had decided to assemble a task force of four hundred officers from different departmentsall from elite forcesand move them en masse to Medelln The new group would be called the Bloque de Bsqueda, or Search Bloc Their assignment was to go after the Medelln cartelto capture or kill Pablo Escobar and the rest of the cartels leaders Galns assassination, it turned out, thoroughly angered Colombias elite the governments reaction was to declare war on the cartel The very same day that Martnez learned about the new task force, he received a phone call from the director of the police Martnez had been selected to lead the Bloque de Bsqueda, the director informed him He was to pack a bag and leave immediately for Medelln In 1551 a thirty one year old conquistador named Pedro Cieza de Len published the first of three chronicles about his travels through South America, which included years spent in what are now Colombia and Peru The Spaniard described plants, animals, and people that no European had ever seen He also wrote about the widespread use of small leaves by natives in the Andes, harvested from plants they called coca In all parts of the Indies through which I traveled I noticed the Indians delighted to carry herbs or roots in their mouths to which they apply a mixture which they carry in a calabash gourd , made from a certain earth like lime When I asked some of these Indians why they carried these leaves in their mouths, which they do not eat they replied that it prevents them from feeling hungry, and gives them great vigor and strength They use Coca in the forests of the Andes The trees are small, and they cultivate them with great care, that they may yield the leaf called Coca They put the leaves in the sun, and afterwards pack them in little narrow bags This Coca is so highly valued that there are some persons in Spain who are rich from the produce of this Coca, having traded with it, sold and resold it in the Indian markets For centuries after Cieza de Lens description, however, the precise reason the coca plants had such powerful grip upon Andean natives remained a mysteryonly to be unraveled nearly half a millennium later Do you know what Colombias greatest sport is asks Alexander, a twenty eight year old Colombian teacher from Bogot Alexander is giving me and two of his friends a ride out to Lake Guatavita, the sacred lake where the story of El Dorado was born Soccer I suggest, staring through the windshield from the front seat No, he says, shaking his head He looks over at me, and I shake my head, too Murder, he says matter of factly, shrugging his shoulders Alexander swerves to give a wide berth to a tight cluster of bicyclists on the right hand side of the highway, their helmeted heads down, their black and yellow outfits gleaming in the early morning sun Bicycling and bicycle racing is a popular sport in Colombia, and on Sundays it seems like half of Bogot puts on tight shorts, shirts, and helmets and takes to the streets The cyclists remind me of the fact that Pablo Escobars older brother, Roberto, was once a champion bicycle racer before he joined Pablos growing drug business So why is there so much violence in Colombia I ask Genes, Alexander says, without missing a beat He looks at me, and I shake my head again, not understanding We were conquered by murderers, he says Our ancestors were thieves and barbarians Violence is in our genes In the backseat of Alexanders car sits Herman Van Diepen, a lanky, fifty eight year old American expatriate who teaches English in Bogot and who has been living here for the last five years Herman is of Dutch extraction, hails from Modesto, California, and has blue eyes and what seems to be permanently sunburned skin A year after he arrived in Bogot, Herman married a Colombian flower vendor Colombia, it turns out, not only cornered the market on cocaine but is also the worlds second largest exporter of cut flowers Her name was Maria and, like Herman, Maria was divorced She had two sons and had put both of them through the best universities in Colombia Maria was a hard worker and eventually bought two small brick apartments she had paid off by running the small flower business Today both Herman and Maria are riding with us, in the backseat of Alexanders Toyota I turn to Maria, whos wearing jeans and a sweater, and ask her the same question I had asked Alexander Why has there been so much violence in Colombia over the years Desigualdad, she says without hesitation Inequality A few people have everything, a lot of people have nothing Thats the root, she says, nodding her head, her long black hair lightly streaked with gray Yet, says Herman, despite the violence, Colombians are some of the happiest people in the world Some of the friendliest people Ive ever met But we have an inferiority complex, Alexander says, as we drive through countryside that looks a bit like Switzerland or southern Germany, with rolling hills and patches of dark green forest, intermixed with cultivated land To the left, rows of strawberry plants stretch up and over a low hill Recently, Alexander says, Colombia played a soccer match against Ecuador For almost the entire match, Colombia completely dominated the team from the smaller nation to the south But, he says, in the last few minutes Ecuador scored not once but twice The match ended 20 Thats why we have an expression here, Alexander says We played as never beforebut we lost as usual Maria laughs Alexander teaches English in the same college that Herman does He lives in a small apartment and graduated from the university in linguistics Hes married, has two small boys, and shakes his head I love Colombia, he says But this country is still pretty fucked up We turn off the highway, the sky overcast with ragged gray clouds, and pull into Sesquil, a small town with a colonial church set at the base of forested green mountains In a small caf with a wooden balcony, we look out onto the square below and order a breakfast of rib soup, croissants, and small cups of piping hot chocolate Beautiful mountains, I say, admiring the jagged hills that rise behind the church The church is made of orange brick, and its two towers are layered in green shingles Yes, beautiful mountains, Alex says sourly, wiping croissant crumbs from his neatly pressed sweater and slacks Beautiful mountains that are full of guerrillas Just outside of town, Alex pulls to a stop and asks an old man wearing a straw hat and a ruana, or woolen poncho, if this is the right way to Lake Guatavita Youre pretty much lost, the old man says He has dark brown eyes set in leathery skin But youll find it, he says, gesticulating vaguely toward the hills A half hour later, we find the entrance to the Reserva del Cacique Guatavita and are soon following a Muisca guide through damp, bromeliad infested hills, home to spectacled bears and small night monkeys called martejas Moss and lichen cling to the trunks of small trees while an iridescent green hummingbird flits about, dazzling us when struck by the sun Our guide is from one of the five local indigenous groups in the area His name is Oscar Chauta, hes twenty eight and has straight black hair, a soft voice, and pleasant, musical laughter Oscars ancestors used to speak Chibcha, he says, the same language the conquistadors encountered here But no one speaks Chibcha any, he explains, not even his grandparentsthey only spoke a few words Oscars last name, Chauta, means man, being, to sow the seed, he says King Carlos III of Spain outlawed the speaking of Chibcha in 1770, Oscar says, in an attempt to rid Colombia of its indigenous heritage The law remained in place for than two centuries, until 1991, the same year Colombias congress outlawed extradition, thus protecting drug traffickers from being prosecuted abroad By then, however, the Chibcha language had long since gone extinct Alexander, Maria, Herman, six other Colombian tourists, and I huff and puff up the trail to nearly ten thousand feet, sometimes walking through natural tunnels of vegetation Ferns protrude out toward the stone flagged trail We pass groves of pine trees, the clustered needles of which hang like shrunken heads, low to the ground At one point we pause, looking out over rolling hills and patches of dark green forest I ask our guide if in the past Muisca villages werent scattered over the hills, if this land in fact hadnt once been a quilt work of villages and fields No, he says, this whole area was sacred It was un ecosistema sagrado, he says, a sacred ecosystem There were no villages hereonly the sacred forests and lakes We finally emerge onto a crest and discover that we are standing on the rim of a giant crater where, some hundreds of feet below, stretches an emerald colored lake This is Lake Guatavita, one of a series of lakes sacred to the Muisca A breeze alternately ruffles and stills its surface, so that sometimes its corrugated and at other times is as smooth as glass Our guide gathers us on the craters rim and begins to tell the story of how, back in the days of the Muisca, certain boys were chosen to be caciques, or chiefs As part of their training, Oscar says, the boys were kept isolated in a cave for twelve years, without being permitted to leave The first six years, he says, they were taken care of by their mothers For the next six, they were raised by their fathers When they finally reached puberty and after lengthy instruction from their elders, each boy was tested to see how pure his heart was, by surreptitiously offering him a tempting array of virgin girls If the teenager failed the test, Oscar tells us, his black hair framed by the green mountains behind, then he was killed If the teenager passed, then on a certain resplendent day attendants covered him in resin and blew gold dust onto his body with tubular reeds Afterward, the teenager was fitted with golden breastplates, diadems, and sparkling nose and ear ornaments Early in the morning, Oscar says, gesturing toward the lake below, attendants rowed the prospective chief out onto the water on a reed raft Up on the craters crest, where we are standing now, a thousand or onlookers gathered, awaiting the emergence of the sun Finally, at the appropriate time, certain natives blew conch shells as the anointed princewhom the Spaniards later called El Dorado, or the golden oneraised his arms toward the newly arrived sun The prince then threw golden ornaments into the lake as offerings to the lake goddess and to the sun Do you believe he threw gold into the lake Oscar concludes dramatically, looking carefully at our small group We nod solemnly We can hear the sound of wind in the trees, and I can see it begin to carve the lake surface far below The Spaniards did, Oscar says, now pointing at a large gash on the northern edge of the crater, a kind of wedge cut into the rim that cleaves all of the way down to the lakes surface They tried to drain it over and over again, Oscar says, but they never could They never found the bottom Oscar is only partially right, it turns out A long line of Spaniards and Colombians did try to drain the lake in the sixteenth century, beginning with bucket brigades and culminating in the 1580 excavation of a huge wedge in the craters side, which lowered the lake by sixty feet The gash later collapsed, killing the native workers, and the effort of cutting farther into the craters rim was abandoned The Spaniards found enough jade and golden ornaments along the newly exposed lakeshore, however, to encourage further efforts In 1801 the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt visited Lake Guatavita in the midst of his South American explorations Humboldt carefully measured the circumference and later estimated that possibly the equivalent of 100 million in gold might lie at the lakes bottom A century later, an English engineer named Hartley Knowles took over a Colombian extraction company and went to work applying modern technology in the form of steam engines to bore holes into one of the craters sides Hartley spent a dozen years at the task, gradually draining the lake lower and lower, all the while hiring local workers to scour the newly exposed lake beds for gold By 1912 Knowles had discovered enough ancient Muisca offerings that he auctioned off sixty two lots of golden ornaments and jewels in London, which netted him 20,000 That same year, a reporter from the New York Times interviewed Knowles in New York City, where the Englishman had gone to show some of his smaller treasures to specialists According to the reporter, Knowles poured some of the golden ornaments into the reporters outstretched hand El Dorado, the Englishman said quietly El Dorado after centuries The gifts of the golden man The treasure of the sacred lake A photo that later accompanied the reporters article showed the result of Knowless handiwork instead of a lake now appeared a massive crater, almost completely drained, with two men standing on its bottom amid pools of water, mud, and slime The lake is drained as dry as I currently want it, Knowles told the reporter If it is completely drained the mud at the bottom may solidify, and we do not want that What we are after now is to dig down to what was the bottom of the lake 456 years ago The present bottom is, of course, a sediment of years It took four years to drain the lake Now we are excavating Unfortunately for Knowles, his workers ultimately did drain the last pools of water, the lake bottom did solidify, and excavation efforts had to be abandoned Eventually his company went bankrupt, the rains came as they always did, and the crater filled up once again In 1965 the Colombian government purchased Lake Guatavita and the surrounding area and turned it into a reserve, thus putting an end to four centuries worth of efforts to dredge the lake for gold To the Europeans, gold was money, Oscar tells us, as the late afternoon sun illuminates his face To the Muisca, it was different The gold was sacred It had meaning It was an element that never tarnished, an element that never became corrupted Oscar looks around at us, and we nod I turn to the great gash that still scars the lakes edge and think of all the reed rafts and of centuries of golden men and of the worshippers who once stood on the craters rim, like we are standing now, waiting for the glorious emergence of the sun And then I think of the endless parade of treasure hunters who later arrived, hoping to find a substance that could make them wealthy, hoping to find an element that could make them powerful, hoping to find a treasure that could completely transform their lives One of the latest and most infamous of this line was the drug lord Pablo Escobar The only difference was that Escobar chased after neither myths nor buried treasure Instead, he focused his full attention on a plant derived substance now literally worth its weight in gold Pablo Escobar Gaviria was born the third of seven children and grew up in Envigado, a suburb of Medelln The Escobar family had moved to Envigado from the countryside after the ravages of La Violencia Although his father was a farmer and his mother a schoolteacher, Escobar in his early teens soon fell in with the wrong crowd, dropped out of high school, and embarked on a life of crime At first, he stole cars, then he robbed banks, before he eventually moved into contraband goods, kidnappings, extortion, and murder By 1975, when Escobar was twenty four, he had already spent a decade honing his criminal skills Five foot six and with wavy brown hair, he was by now a master at stealing cars and also at smuggling contraband By a strange quirk of fate, Escobars mastery of the local contraband trade just so happened to coincide with changes occurring thousands of miles north By the early 1970s, US citizens who had been regularly smoking illegal marijuana for decades were just beginning to experiment with cocaine Small amounts of the white powder had been wending their way northward from South America since the late 1960s By the early 1970s, the flow of cocaine had started to increase exponentially Colombia was a natural transshipment point for illegal drugs from the Andean countries as it straddled both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean as well as the land isthmus that led north And the economics made sense In 1975 a kilo of unrefined cocaine paste, called pasta bsica, could be bought in Peru or Bolivia for roughly 60 Once refined into pure cocaine and smuggled into Miami or New York, a kilo could be sold for 40,000 Among the small time criminals who lived in the provincial city of Medelln, none took a intense interest in those profits than Pablo Escobar Escobar began his move into the cocaine business as a bottom rung drug smuggler at the age of twenty four In 1975 the young criminal outfitted three French Renaults with a secret compartment under their chasses, bought a kilo of cocaine paste in Peru, then drove the first car with Peruvian license plates to the border There he switched to the second car with Ecuadorian plates, then switched again to a third Renault at the Colombian border Once across the border, Escobar drove without any problems to Medelln, where he personally refined the paste into purified cocaine in his own bathtub He then sold the drug to local traffickers who knew how to smuggle cocaine into the United States Dissatisfied with selling his hard won product for local Colombian prices, however, Escobar soon began searching for a way to gain access to the distribution system that connected Colombia to the rest of the world It was only by selling abroad, after all, that the really huge profits could be made Eventually, Escobar learned of a local smuggler in Medelln named Fabio Restrepo, a medium level drug dealer who had begun shipping forty to sixty kilos of cocaine several times a year to Miami Escobar quickly did the math forty to sixty kilospurchased in Peru as pasta bsica for roughly 2,400 to 3,600could be converted into cocaine and sold in the United States for 1.6 to 2.4 million dollars, a markup of nearly 1,000 percent Local US distributors, meanwhile, would add various worthless substances, such as cornstarch, to the cocaine, thus cutting it, or expanding the volume and weight, up to three times The original kilo would thus become three kilosresulting in a final markup value of nearly 3,000 percent Eager to gain access to the distribution system linked to those profits, Escobar soon contacted some of Restrepos men and arranged to sell them some cocaine At the time, Escobar was living in a grungy, ill kept apartment and had been storing the cocaine he had refined in a dresser drawer The two men who showed up were unimpressed by the small, soft spoken young man who ultimately sold them fourteen kilos of cocaine A few months later, however, those same men were surprised to learn that their boss, Restrepo, had been killed and that Restrepos organizationthemselves includedwas now being run by the same small time supplier they had previously met and had obviously underestimated Pablo Escobar Escobar was a criminal, through and through, says General Hugo Martnez, the former Search Bloc leader who had been sent to capture Escobar and dismantle the Medelln cartel He was very cunning, very smart, very ruthless He wasnt a businessman he was a gangster A year after Restrepo was killed, two agents from Colombias security police DAS arrested Escobar, having caught him smuggling cocaine According to Colombian law, Escobar now faced a possible sentence of multiple years in prison The mug shot taken of him the day of his arrest, however, showed not a young man who was worried about his predicament, but instead a smiling, confident man who clearly seemed to view his arrest as an adventure or a lark Sure enough, after paying off the proper authorities, Escobar walked free a few weeks later According to his brother Roberto, who was soon to join his younger brothers organization, Escobar later had the two DAS agents who had arrested him killed Pablo promised Im going to kill those motherfuckers myself I have heard from others that Pablo had them brought to a house, made them get down on their knees, then put a gun to their head and killed them In any case, the newspapers reported finding the bodies of these two DAS agents who had been shot many times The murder of Restrepo and the two agents offered an early glimpse into what soon became Escobars standard operating procedure kill or muscle your way into a lucrative illegal activity eliminate competition and obstacles via hired killers pay off police, judges, and politicians so that your illegal activities are protected or ignored then expand your markets and control by repeating all of the above Immediately after taking over Restrepos drug network, Escobar began working to increase the size of his operation The man who had once processed a single kilo of pasta bsica in his own bathtub was soon sending forty to sixty kilos of refined cocaine to Miami by small plane per week and earning roughly 8 million of profits per month By reinvesting those profits, Escobar continued to expand, increasing his drug flights to two or three times per week Within two short years, Pablo Escobar possessed a fleet of fifteen large aircraft Each was capable of carrying 1,200 kilos of cocaineworth than 80 millionto the United States at a time Those on the other end of the supply chainat first trendy young Americans with disposable incomes and later the poorer inhabitants of the inner citieshad no inkling of the death, bribes, and sheer criminality that followed the journey of the fine white powder from the Andes all the way up into their noses In 1977 a Newsweek reporter chronicled the explosive impact the powerful new South American drug was having in the United States Cocaines popularity has spread so vastly within the last few years that it has become the recreational drug of choice for countless Americans At certain restaurants in Aspen, Colo.which one DEA official called the cocaine capital of the USdevotees can ask for Booth D to be assured of a table where they can safely take the drug Among hostesses in the smart sets of Los Angeles and New York, a little cocaine, like Dom Prignon and beluga caviar, is now de rigueur at dinners Some party givers pass it around along with the canaps on silver trays some fill ashtrays with cocaine and set them on the table Some coke buffs wear neck chains with a razor blade and a tiny spoon dangling like amulets Maxferds, a San Francisco jewelry store, provides diamond encrusted razor blades for 500 and custom designed spoons that sell for as much as 5,000 The store, which sold 40,000 worth of cocaine spoons last year, also offers a double spoon We have to use calipers to measure the distance from one nostril to the other, says Maxferds owner, Howard Cohn It can get quite funny With his own nose glued to money, not powder Escobar famously never imbibed cocaineinstead he smoked marijuana daily, getting high each morning before buckling down to business , Pablo Escobar quickly transformed himself from a car thief and extortionist operating in a provincial Colombian capital into an international cocaine baron By 1982, at the age of thirty two, Escobar was married, had two children, was a multibillionaire, and had helped create the Medelln cartel, a loose confederation of cocaine suppliers, refiners, and distributors Amazingly, he had also just been elected to national office as an alternate congressman from Medelln The latter position automatically gave Escobar both judicial immunity from prosecution and a diplomatic visa for travel to the United States For the first time, Escobar could now legally travel to Miami and enjoy his mansions Escobar did so on his Learjet, taking his family to see Disney World, the White House, and the FBI museum Even while Escobar was vacationing in the United States, however, fleets of his planes, speed boats, and remote controlled submarines were constantly heading north, returning to Colombia with so many bales of 100 bills that Escobar found it efficient to weigh the money rather than count it Running for and winning political office, however, turned out to be a watershed moment in Pablo Escobars career It soon became apparent, in fact, that Escobar possessed a fatal flaw in his suite of criminal characteristics that, until now, had lifted him from complete obscurity up into the very stratosphere of the criminal elite A man whose very profession required anonymity and whose business by necessity had to be carried out in the shadows, gradually revealed that he lusted after not only great wealth and power but also fame and renown In a country where even four hundred years after the Spanish conquest 97 percent of the countrys wealth was controlled by 3 percent of its elite, Escobar now wanted entre and acceptance into that elite Escobars real goal, he informed his inner circle, was eventually to become Colombias president Yet running for and gaining political office couldnt be accomplished without simultaneously running the risk of Escobar exposing his vast, subterranean criminal enterprises In the end, it was a miscalculation that would prove to be his undoing Escobars enjoyment of his congressional seat, in fact, along with its twin perks of diplomatic immunity and a US travel visa, lasted for less than a year Although Escobar had paid various henchmen to destroy his criminal records and had thus tried to whitewash his past, his sudden emergence onto the public stage invited both close public scrutiny and intense press coverage Who was this thirty two year old self described billionaire who was now a Colombian congressmanand how had he made his money Escobar claimed publicly that he had made his fortune through real estate Rumors soon began circulating, however, that Escobars story was invented, that it was in reality a mere faade Escobar wanted it both ways, Hugo Martnez tells me, sitting in his friends apartment He wanted the criminal world to fear him and not dare cross him in any way, yet he wanted the public not to know anything about his criminal enterprises He tried to pass himself off as a businessman Here was the biggest criminal in the worldand he was telling everyone that he had made his fortune in real estate And many people believed him In August 1983, a year after Escobars election, Colombias justice minister, Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, revealed that Escobar was no real estate tycoon but rather a drug trafficker The fact that Escobar was a congressman, Lara added, made a mockery of Colombias justice system Within days of the announcement, the newspaper El Espectador began publishing stories about Escobars 1976 arrest for drug trafficking and the still unsolved deaths of the two DAS agents who had arrested him The newspaper also published Escobars 1976 mug shot, smiling and looking completely satisfied with himself, as if he were on a holiday, not in jail Like a building slated to be demolished and that has just had its support pinions blown out, Escobars political career quickly began to implode The head of the Liberal Party, to which Escobar belonged, soon denounced the cocaine baron, ejecting him from the party Not long afterward, the US embassy revoked Escobars diplomatic visa, Escobars parliamentary immunity was then lifted, and Escobar was forced to resign from Congress By January 1984, Pablo Escobars short lived political career was over With his dream of one day becoming president of Colombia in ruins, however, one thing was predictable, at least to those who knew Escobar well there was going to be all hell to pay for this humiliating disaster With his cover blown and his political career destroyed, Escobar no longer needed to pretend that he was anything other than the ruthless criminal he had always been, one who resorted to murder, violence, and terror as a normal part of his day to day operations In retaliation for the loss of his political career, Escobar soon ordered a series of assassinations, first killing the Justice Minister, Rodrigo Lara, who had exposed him, then carrying out a prolonged campaign of violence against the Colombian state Escobars ultimate goal was to force Colombia to rescind its extradition treaty with the United States To do so, however, meant altering Colombias Constitution And that meant forcing Colombias elite, who wielded the political power, to bend to Escobars will Bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, threats, and payoffs now became the norm, as Escobar launched a no holds barred war against the Colombian government In August 1989, cartel sicarios assassinated the leading presidential candidate, Luis Galn, a man who had sworn to uphold the extradition treaty Three months later, a bomb exploded in an Avianca jetliner that had just taken off from Bogot, killing all 107 passengers The bomb had been intended for Csar Gaviria Trujillo, who had become the leading presidential candidate after Galns death and who had also sworn to uphold extradition Gaviria, however, had changed his flight plans at the last moment and was not aboard Escobars involvement in the killings of the justice minister and Galn, not to mention the downing of an international jetliner, had finally forced Colombias government to take action One thing had become painfully clear for the Colombian state to survive in any form that resembled a democracy, Escobar and the cartel had to be eliminated Either the governmentor Escobarwas going to fall It was during this period of escalating violence, as he was sitting in his office in Bogot, that Colonel Hugo Martnez received the phone call from his superior It was not a long conversation, but when the colonel hung up, he knew that the call would ultimately change not only his lifebut possibly the future of Colombia as well The city of Medelln, Colombia, is only a twenty five minute flight from Bogots El Dorado Airport, although culturally its almost like flying to another country Keep your eye out for the women, my taxi driver on the way to the airport had urged me He was a married man of fifty nine, had put three kids through college, was retiring on a pension in a year, and assured me that the women of Medelln were the most beautiful in Colombia Yo, como Colombiano, puedo asegurartelo, he said I, as a Colombian, can assure you of this He also assured me that, like practically everyone else in Colombia, he had watched the recent series on television about the life of Pablo Escobar El Patrn de Mal, The Boss of Evil Escobar was and still is very popular in Medelln among his paisas compatriots , my driver said But it was all very calculated Hed give a poor person a house, if the person asked him for it But then hed say, I may need your help one day Or hed give a man some money, and then that man would be indebted to him It was all very calculated, he assured me Basically, he was a bandido If you ask a Colombian what common characteristics all Colombians have, theyll generally shrug their shoulders Colombians have no national character, one Colombian told me They have only regional characters People from Bogot, for example, are called rolos and are supposedly very reserved, unemotional, conservative, and not very friendly Those from the south are said to be slow and a bit thick The people from the department of Antioquia in the west, of which Medelln is the capital, are called paisas and have always possessed the reputation of being good entrepreneurs, of being driven to succeed, and of being politically liberal Escobar, it was obvious, was certainly a classic Antioquian, although an especially immoral one Medelln sprawls along the floor of a long valley with lush green hills on both sides Various slums climb the hills, yet from a distance and especially at night, when their lights come on the slums look like Italian villages, lit with twinkling stars, the lights camouflaging the poverty around them I take a room in a hotel in the citys center, near Botero Plaza, then go out for a walk in the afternoon right after a rain The eaves of the buildings still drip with water as I pass by a line of men selling plums, pears, and avocados from wooden carts Each man has a microphone and a portable speaker system, trying to attract the notice of the pedestrians milling about Plums at fifteen pesos a kilo Avocados at twenty pesos a kilo The noise makes it sound like Im walking in a large stadium I make my way across a wide street median where vendors squat beside piles of shoes, bags, and watches, lines of cars spewing exhaust on either side, the street pungent with the smell of car fumes, urine, and the occasional strong smell of marijuana I pass a man with short, vestigial arms wearing a blue T shirt, past the bodies of homeless people sleeping on the wet, dirty cement using plastic bags as mattresses, past people picking their way slowly around stalled traffic, the car horns blaring, until I emerge onto the plaza that is lined with a series of colossal bronze sculptures, the bronze patinas streaked now with pigeon shit and rain The sculptures depict corpulent men and women, a horse, a dog, a reclining nude, all with heavy haunches and fashioned by Medellns best known artist, Fernando Botero, now in his eighties It was here, to Medelln, that Colonel Hugo Martnez arrived to take command of the Search Bloc in September of 1989, amid the local paisas who speak with thick regional accents, amid the crowded streets where sicarios roamed on motorcycles, and amid a city of two million where resided the central nervous system of the Medelln cartel Within days of the groups arrival, Escobar and the cartel went grimly to work, quickly placing bounties of a thousand US dollars each for Search Bloc policemen, two thousand dollars for their lieutenants, five thousand dollars for their police majors, and so on Within the first month, one hundred of Martnezs men had been gunned down, a number so alarming that the director of police in Bogot was considering disbanding the group and ending operations I was constantly attending funerals, Martnez told me, shaking his head It was a war Martnez nevertheless went about his work, taking residence with the rest of his men on the grounds of a police academy in the northern part of the city They soon ringed the school with cordons of security outside so that only those with passes were allowed inside Martnez normally dressed as a civilian and, for security reasons, rarely left headquarters Knowing full well that many of the local police had been paid off, Martnez early on had insisted on a simple rule no one from Medelln or who had relatives in Medelln could join the Search Bloc Everyone had to be from elsewhere in Colombia, lest friendships and family connections compromise their allegiance Not surprisingly, Martnezs men were the crme de la crme of the various Colombian police forces, handpicked, well trained, and completely dedicated On one wall of his office Martnez soon constructed an organigram, or visual diagram of the cartels organization, such as police intelligence then knew it Gradually, he added to the sketch as his men captured criminals, tapped suspects phone lines, and conducted surveillance operations After the assassination of the presidential candidate Galn, the Colombian government had quickly seized Escobars sprawling Hacienda Npoles ranch and many of his other properties In addition, top secret US surveillance planes now flew over the city, invited by the Colombian government The planes were tasked with recording Escobars radio phone conversations and trying to fix his location by means of triangulation A month and a half after arriving, Martnez and his men mounted their first raid, after receiving a tip that Escobar was visiting a particular ranch in the Colombian jungle According to Escobars brother Roberto, who was there at the time, One of the radios Pablo had given to all our neighbors made a noise about 6 00 a.m It was from one of the people who lived on a nearby farm Leave the voice said The police are here Weve seen trucks and heard helicopters Go now Within a few seconds we heard the Search Bloc helicopters coming at us As they approached, they started shooting from the air We ran, firing back as much as possible Pablo was in his sleeping clothes without even a shirt or shoes Bullets hit the ground and the trees and whizzed by my ear It was later I found out that those damn mosquitoes helicopters had killed Henao Pablos brother in law as he tried to get to the river Pablo saw him get shot that was the only time I ever saw Pablo cry Back in Medelln, after hearing radio reports of the operation and about those who had been killed or captured, Martnez walked over to his office wall and drew a line through Henaos picture Henao had been not only Escobars brother in law, he had also been his right hand man the two of them had pioneered new drug routes and had been arrested together in 1976 There was now one less leader of the Medelln carteland the Search Blocs activities were just beginning Pablo Escobar fought back, continuing his campaign of bombings and assassinations across the country, selectively exterminating judges, police, prosecutors, and politicians, and assuming that by ratcheting up his campaign of terror, the government would eventually crack Meanwhile, deep within the cartels home territory, as lights twinkled on Medellns hillsides and sicarios polished their guns, Martnez would sit each night in his office wearing a pair of headphones, listening to the intercepted conversations of Escobar speaking with his underlings When Escobar finally realized that his conversations were being monitored, he eerily said into his radio phone one evening Colonel, Im going to kill you Im going to kill all of your family up to the third generation, and then I will dig up your grandparents and shoot them and bury them again Do you hear me Martnezs tactics nevertheless remained the samehe stayed on the offensive For Escobar and the cartel, the colonel had now become Enemy 1 It was thus imperative that they somehow infiltrate the police compound and eliminate him before Martnez eliminated them One evening, as the colonel listened to phone calls the surveillance planes had recorded, a puzzling thing happened In one conversation, Martnez heard a womans voice speaking to a cartel member who was insistently demanding something from her Im here, but I dont see it, the woman kept saying Then look for it the man insisted The womans voice, the colonel realized, was familiar But who was it and what was the man after And where had he heard her voice before I dont see it, she said over and over again Finally, the colonel realized who it was There was a woman, Martnez told me, who used to clean my office Often I would stay there as she cleaned The voice was that of the maid who cleaned up headquarters The man, a cartel member, wanted her to remove his photo from the organizational diagram the colonel had made of the cartel on his office wall Shortly afterward, Martnez had the woman transferred so that she no longer had access to any of their offices Members of the Search Bloc, meanwhile, soon discovered where she lived and also learned that the cartel had threatened her and her family If she did not cooperate, the cartel had told her, she would be killed They killed her anyway, Martnez told me She didnt give them what they wanted So they shot her after we transferred her She was a mother, and they shot her in her home Even after the discovery of the maid, Martnez gradually realized that the cartel must have another informer within his organization Someone, somehow, had to be tipping off Escobar As a routine precaution to throw off possible informers, Search Bloc operations would commonly leave headquarters in four convoys, each one roaring off through Medelln in a different direction Only one of the convoys would be carrying out an actual operation, howeverthe rest were decoys to confuse the cartel Yet despite their precautions, Escobar always seemed to know when they were coming Martnezs men would raid a house they had received a tip onone of many hideouts Escobar had in the cityyet inevitably they would discover that Escobar had recently departed, often just before they arrived There was no question about it, Martnez realized a rat had somehow infiltrated his organization But who And how On the floor where Martnez and a number of the Search Bloc officials worked, a young cadet was stationed The cadet was often given guard duties and sometimes shined the shoes of the Search Bloc officers At other times, the cadet spent his time carving small wooden figurinesof policemen or of helicopterswhile standing near their offices Unbeknownst to Martnez, the cartel controlled the cadeteither through threats or money or both Most likely, they had made him their typical offer plata o plomo, silver or lead The question, Pablo Escobar had once said, is not whether someone will take a bribe or notbut how much they want Recently, the cartel had ordered the cadet to murder Martnez by putting poison in the soup that the Search Blocs officers ate at lunch Not only would the colonel die, but so too would the officers who ingested it On the appointed day, however, instead of keeping the Search Bloc officers food separate from the rest as he normally did, the cook used a larger kettle to cook withtwice as large in factfor the nonofficers to use, too As he had been instructed, the cadet gained access to the kitchen, emptied his vial of poison into the soup, then left Although some of the men who ate it later developed diarrhea and cramps, they assumed that it had been because of contaminated food, not poison Exasperated, the cartel this time decided to take no chances, ordering the cadet to kill the colonel outright as he sat at his desk each night, listening to captured recordings The cartel furnished the cadet with a pistol and silencer that the cadet successfully smuggled past security On the appointed night, the young assassin crept up outside the colonels office, watched him through the window listening with his headphones on, took out his pistol, held it outthen realized that the silencer had no aiming mechanism If I fail, the cadet said to himself, they will kill me Frustrated and undoubtedly promised a fat reward, the cadet decided that the wisest course of action would be first to practice with the pistol, then to kill the colonel the following night The next day, however, tipped off that the Search Bloc definitely had an informer within, the colonel flew to Bogot, realizing that his life was in danger A week later, after an investigation discovered the source, the cadet was arrested, confessed, and eventually went to prison The cartel had come up short again Are you here for the Pablo Escobar tour a man asks me gruffly The man is about fifty, wears blue jeans and a white T shirt, has hairy arms, close cropped black hair and eyebrows that meet above his nose He looks at me suspiciously and frowns Yes, I am, I say Id arranged to meet the man, Jaime, who runs a private tour called the Pablo Escobar Tour, over the phone from my hotel We meet at a Medelln caf, near the Parque Bolivar The cafs open to the street and has round silver tables Waitresses wearing white dresses like nurses serve hot buuelo pastries and blended drinks of maracuj, chirimoya, and other tropical fruits Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, and its cornucopia of indigenous fruits is nothing short of astounding A short while later, I climb into the mans white van As we pull out into traffic, he begins peppering me with questions Are you a reporter he asks I shake my head Work for TV I shake my head again Good, because Roberto Escobar doesnt give interviews, he says, referring to Pablos brother, who spent ten years in prison before being released Hes now the highlight of the tour Hes almost blind, you know While he was imprisoned, Jaime says, and only weeks before his brother Pablo was killed, Roberto received a package It turned out to be a pipe bomb I ask who had sent it It was a gift, Jaime says, from the Cali cartel The Cali cartelnamed for a rival city and center of the cocaine trade in Colombiawas apparently trying to wipe out both Escobar brothers and the rest of the Medelln cartel, thus eliminating its main competitor My cousinI mean, my friendJaime continues, making a verbal slip then looking at me sideways with a frown, used to work for Pablo Escobar We used to go out to the Hacienda Npoles together, he says, steering the car with a hairy left hand and tapping my arm with the other for emphasis Colombians like to occasionally tap anothers arms while speaking, especially when making a point When Roberto got out of prison, Jaime continues, I asked him if he wanted to become part of the tour There are other tours, you know, he says, tapping me again, this time on the chest, but this is the only tour that includes Roberto Escobar The end game for Pablo Escobar and the Medelln cartel began in late 1993, in an upscale suburb of Medelln called Los Olivos After two years of bombing and assassinations, Escobar finally made a deal with the Colombian government Not surprisingly, the deal was almost completely on Escobars terms In exchange for ending his war against the state and halting his bombing and assassination campaign, Escobar agreed to plead guilty to a minor charge of drug trafficking and to turn himself in for a short stint in prison After his release, he would be absolved of any previous crimes Amazingly, the government also allowed Escobar to select the site and to build the prison himself In addition, only Escobar and his men would be housed there, the prison guards would be hired by and would work for him, and the Colombian police would not be allowed within twelve miles of the prison Colonel Martnez, not surprisingly, was disgusted After having lost hundreds of men, he felt betrayed We felt we had lost the war, Martnez told me Just when he was at his weakest, he makes this deal with the government But what could we do Our job was to obey orders With the agreement signed, Roberto Escobar soon joined his brother in prison, as did other members of the Medelln cartel The Search Bloc, meanwhile, was disbanded Not surprisingly, Escobar soon gained complete control over the situation he quickly outfitted the prison with luxury waterbeds, deluxe stereos, televisions, and radio communication equipment in addition, he received any visitors he wanted and sometimes even attended soccer matches in Medelln Escobar also continued to run his worldwide cocaine operation, the prison now a kind of legal sanctuary where he could no longer be bothered A year later, however, when an embarrassed and exasperated government finally decided to transfer Escobar to a real prison, Escobar received a tip and escaped into the nearby hills, just as he was about to be transferred The hunt for Pablo Escobar, once again, was on It was a relief when he escaped, Martnez told me I was happybecause now that he was out, I knew we had a good chance of catching him Within a week of Escobars escape, Martnez received a phone call ordering him to rapidly reassemble the Search Bloc team A few weeks later, the Medelln cartel exploded a bomb in front of the apartment tower where Martnezs wife and two children were living Martnez immediately flew to Bogot and began packing up the apartment, placing his family in hiding It was then that he received the knock on the door and a bribe from his former colleague of 6 million I knew at that moment that Escobar must be weak, Martnez told me He was on the run Thats why he made the offer Due to the danger of refusing the bribe, the colonel decided to move his wife and children to the police academy in Medelln where the rest of the Search Bloc was housed Anywhere else in Colombia, Martnez realized, was simply too dangerous From now on, his two youngest children would be isolated from their peers and homeschooled The colonels eldest son, however, twenty three year old Hugo Martnez Jr., had already graduated from the police academy, had been on the police force in Bogot for two years, and wanted to come to Medelln and help out He urged his father to transfer him Its just too dangerous, Martnez told him firmly But I want to help you, his son repeated Hugo Jr had recently received training in electronics and was the best student in his class His specialty was operating mobile radio tracking equipment from vehicles on the grounda job that was conducted undercover with no police escort To zero in on a radio signal, just two menthe driver and the radio trackerdrove about in an unmarked van, searching for the source of a transmission The reason the tracking units had been created was simple it had become clear that the American reconnaissance planes were unable to pinpoint a radio transmission precisely enough for the Search Bloc to mount a raid The planes could locate the neighborhood the transmission was coming from, but not a specific location With training in the latest radio tracking equipment, however, Hugo assured his father that Escobars location could finally be pinpointedbut that ultimately it would come from the ground Let me help you catch him, his son urged Finally, after weeks of going back and forth, Martnez relented Father and son were now united together for the hunt According to the latest aerial surveillance, Escobar had remained in Medelln Yet he was continually moving from safe house to safe house, knowing that if he remained anywhere for too long, hed be located Police searching for criminals, however, know that a criminals family connections are often a liability If the police are searching for a fugitive and Christmas is approaching, or the birthday of a criminals mother, then the best chance of capturing the fugitive is to stake out the family and to tap their phone Escobaralthough a remorseless killer whose behavior often appeared to be that of a sociopathnevertheless had a family that he was extremely attached to his wife and their two children, Manuela, nine, and Juan Pablo, sixteen By necessity, the three of them now lived in a high rise tower in Medelln Escobar was often desperately worried about his familys safety, especially since he knew that the Cali cartel wanted to kill them In November 1993, the same month that his brother was blinded by a pipe bomb, Escobar finally succeeded in arranging for his family to fly to Germany, only to have the German government refuse to allow their entry Instead, the government returned his wife and children to Colombia The Colombian police opted to place the family in a police owned hotel in Bogot, under their protection In a sense, Escobars family was now a hostage of the Colombian government, and Escobar could do nothing about it Only ten years earlier, Escobar had been a Colombian congressman with diplomatic immunity Hed possessed hundreds of properties and had bank accounts around the world Although he was still a multibillionaire, Escobar was now reduced to living in safe houses that only one or two people knew about, accompanied at most by one or two bodyguards, while police and narcotics forces from the United States and Colombiaand a horde of sicarios from the Cali cartelsearched for him Escobar was also well aware that when he used one of his radio phones for than three minutes, he ran the risk of being located For this reason he owned a fleet of twelve taxis Often, Escobar would sit in the backseat of one of these tinted window cars, bearded and wearing sunglasses while making phone calls While the taxi wove through Medellns traffic, it was practically impossible to get a precise fix on his signal As Roberto Escobar later recalled Pablo made phone calls threatening people what would happen if his family was harmed, but besides that there wasnt much he could do now the Search Bloc, the US Centra Spike, the US Delta Force, the police and the Cali cartel were getting closer to him They had set up the family, and they knew that Pablo would do anything, even give his own life, for them So the planes continued to fly overhead listening for his conversations, the experts with phone tapping equipment drove through the city, soldiers roamed through the streets, all of them searching day and night Toward the end of November 1993, a few days before Escobars forty fourth birthday and a week after his family had been barred from entering Germany, Escobar placed a call from somewhere in Medelln that was picked up by a US aircraft circling the city The planes crew narrowed the location of the call to a neighborhood called Los Olivos, but before Colonel Martnez could scramble one of his three mobile tracking units, Escobar had hung up When Martnez informed his superior about the situation, the general told him to encircle the entire zone and begin a door to door search The colonel, having attempted this in the past, stood his ground Weve done this before, the colonel said, and Escobar has always escaped Let him make another calland well have him Finally, the general relented Martnez knew that if Escobar didnt make another call, however, his relationship with the general might come to a head Bombs, meanwhile, set by the Medelln cartel, continued to pound the country, as they had ever since Escobars escape, accompanied by a constant flurry of assassinations The pressure to capture or kill Pablo Escobar had reached a breaking point The public wanted the war to end Martnez had quickly stationed mobile units in the Los Olivos neighborhood and waited Twenty four hours passed And nothing The general called the colonel repeatedly, asking for news There was none Another twenty four hours went by, with the radio trackers sleeping in their vans, ready to spring into action Still nothing Not a word from Escobar The pressure on the colonel continued to mount Finally, on December 2, a day after his birthday, Escobar made a call to his family in the police guarded hotel in Bogot The colonel listened in as Escobars wife wished her husband a happy birthday Then Escobar asked his sixteen year old son to copy down answers Escobar had composed to questions previously submitted by a German magazine The clock, meanwhile, was ticking Martnezs son, Hugo Jr., coincidentally happened to be in the tracking van closest to the radio transmission when Escobar made his call He and his driver immediately scrambled to locate it Hugo wore headphones and had a foot long, gray metal box on his lap On the side closest to him was a palm sized screen displaying a single, wavering green lineEscobars radio signal Alongside a small canal, on a quiet, upscale street, stood a line of two story row homes As Hugo and his driver drove toward the end of the block, the radio signal gradually became louder and the green line grew in intensity Escobars call seemed to be coming directly from a house at the end To be certain, and amid growing excitement, the two drove around the block and approached the house from the other side The luminescent green line indicated that the signal was coming from the same home They had located him In his office at the Search Bloc, after three years of a desperate high stakes game of cat and mouse, Colonel Martnez received a call from his son Ive got him located his son said Hes in a house Are you sure asked the colonel, who was at that very moment still listening to Escobar speaking on the phone I can see him his son said Hugo and the driver, meanwhile, had returned to the front of the house, driving slowly, and had parked across the street Hugo had then peered up at the second story, where there was a small window Visible through its pane was a short, pudgy man with a dark beard talking distractedly on a phone, unaware of the unmarked police van and the excited young officer below By this time, Escobar was accompanied by only a single bodyguard, a man nicknamed Limn, Lemon Cover the house, the colonel told his son You take one side, have the driver take the other If he tries to get away, take him out I asked the colonel how he felt at this moment, with his son suddenly on the front line, an unknown number of criminals in the house and only two Search Bloc membershis son and the driveroutside The nearest Search Bloc support group was about ten minutes away Hugo was a great shot, the colonel answered Much better than me He was several times a champion in combat tactical shooting In the end, Hugo covered the front of the house, where he had briefly seen Escobar, while the driver covered the rear Meanwhile, his father ordered the nearest support teama group of twelve mento rush to the area The colonels order was to capture Escobar and whoever else was in the house and to shoot them if they put the team in dangerstandard Search Bloc operating procedure As soon as the team arrived, they immediately took up positions around the house Then, on a prearranged signal, two of them began breaking down the front door Momento, momento Est pasando algo Hold on, hold on, somethings happening were Escobars final words to his son, as he abruptly hung up the phone Inside the home, a window at the rear of the second floor gave access to a tiled roof and possible safety It was the only way out Escobars bodyguard, Limn, was the first to try to escape, jumping onto the roof and firing at the police in civilian dress, who returned fire from below Limn soon crumpled and fell from the roof onto a small patch of grass below, dead Next came Escobar, holding a nine millimeter pistol in his right hand, another pistol wedged inside his belt The Search Bloc had obviously caught Escobar by surprise the drug lord was barefoot and wore only a dark blue sport shirt and jeans Escobar by now was also overweight from lack of exercise and from constant confinement, but he was not about to surrender As Escobar fired, three bullets quickly took him down one struck the back of his leg, another hit him in the back, just beneath the shoulder, and a third entered his right ear and exited the other side Either of these last two shots would have been fatal Less than ten minutes after arriving, a Search Bloc officer crouched over a motionless Pablo Escobar, checked to see if he had a pulse, and then called Colonel Martnez on the radio Viva Colombia he shouted Pablo Escobar, the most wanted man in Colombia and one of the most sought after criminals in the world, was dead On top of a green hillside, about five miles from where he was killed and overlooking the city of Medelln, Pablo Escobar now lies quietly in a grave at the Cementerio Montesacro, or Sacred Mountain Cemetery On the day he was to be interred, crowds of people gathered, prying open Escobars coffin and trying desperately to touch the lifeless body of a man who had once possessed powers so much enormous than their own the power to bestow great riches, the power to challenge armies of police, the power to challenge an entire nation, and the power to bestow, ultimately, life or death Alongside Escobar is buried Limn, at the request of the latters family Once Escobar was finally six feet beneath the ground, however, his power to influence events ceased Within months of his death, the Medelln cartel was no , all thirty six of its leaders either dead or incarcerated The Colombian government, with US help, soon dismantled the neighboring Cali cartel as well The net effect of the two cartels disappearance, however, left cocaine production unaffected cocaine was produced the year after Escobars death, and in subsequent years, than in any year during Escobars heyday The efforts thus far to stamp out cocaine production in the Andean republics, meanwhile, is known as la cucaracha, or the cockroach, effect just as you can kill a cockroach in one part of a room only to have another pop up somewhere else, the efforts of local and or foreign governments to stamp out cocaine production in one Andean country have resulted only in cocaine production rising an equivalent amount in another In the end, with the destruction of the Colombian cartels, the near monopoly over cocaine trafficking simply moved northward, where Mexican cartels quickly filled the void Mexican cities along the US border soon became killing zones, as Mexican cartels began to fight with one another over the control of drug routes once controlled by Colombians Between 2006 and 2015, than one hundred thousand Mexicans died in the transplanted drug wars, with the US government continually pressing the Mexican government for aggressive efforts to interdict cocaine Nevertheless, roughly 150 tons of illegal cocaine are still smuggled into the United States each year Meanwhile, as we drive along a winding road up a tree covered hill in the upscale Medelln district of Poblado, Jaime pokes my arm some , emphasizing his latest point I tell you honestly, with all confidence, he says, lowering my confidence in him even further, make sure you dont ask Don Roberto too many questions He doesnt like questions The area we are driving through reminds me of the Hollywood Hills where my father grew up small estates appear behind iron gates as we glide beneath large eucalyptus trees drooping overhead The sky is overcast, and the paved road is washed out in parts We finally arrive at a locked gate, and Jaime pulls to a stop A gray haired man arrives and opens the gate slowly, staring at us with no expression as we drive past Shortly afterward, we arrive at a squat, one story brick house painted white and with a tiled roof Wrought iron grates cover the windows to keep out burglars Within an attached, open carport is parked a blue Wartburg sedan, an old East German model that Pablo used to like to drive around Medelln One apocryphal tale describes how Pablo Escobar, the onetime car thief, was the only person in Medelln who never locked his own car Instead, he left a small note in his glove box This car belongs to Pablo Escobar No one ever touched it Before us stands the home of Roberto Escobar, now sixty five years old Pablo would have been sixty two , who lives quietly in the forested hills overlooking Medelln Jaime tells me that Pablo used this as a safe house prior to the one in which he was killed I follow Jaime inside the home, which is set up both as a living residence and as a kind of shrine to Pablo Escobar The private tour of the house, apparently, is the prelude Afterward is the main course a meeting with Roberto, the onetime accountant for the Medelln cartel Framed photos hang on a wall, as well as yellowing newspaper articles of the many bicycle races Roberto won in his youth On another wall hang thirteen carefully arranged photos of Pablo at various ages, from his first communion to his time as a Colombian congressman, wearing a flamboyant yellow suit In a hallway on a small table stands a three foot statue of the Virgin of Candelaria, an Escobar family saint The home is as neat and immaculate as a funeral parlor Jaime leads me to a wall with a bookcase set into it, the bookcase edged with molding He pushes on one side of the case, staring hard at me The entire bookcase moves I realize this is actually a revolving door, revealing a hidden compartment behind Inside is a small space where one or two people could crouch Pablo Escobar, after all, routinely kidnapped people throughout his life it was in just such tiny cavities, hidden from the rest of the world, that his victims spent their time before they were either ransomed or murdered In a desperate moment, Pablo could also hide there himself We walk outside, through sliding glass doors, onto a covered patio behind the house that has a red tiled floor and views over a garden From here I can see across the valley and in the distance the brick skyscrapers of El Poblado Escobar once had his drug operation housed in a tower there, which was later attacked with a car bomb by the Cali cartel In the middle of the patio squats a long green wooden table Spread out on it is the raison detre of the tour books, CDs, and photos are for sale Bueas tardes, says a soft voice behind me I turn and see a slight, bald man with thick glasses and a mouth whose edges seem permanently turned down, like a horseshoe I recognize Roberto Escobar, onetime bicycle racing champion, cartel accountant, and a former inmate for ten years in Colombias Itag prison Roberto is about five foot six, the same height as Pablo, and has Pablos long and sloping aquiline nose We shake hands Roberto has gray blue eyes, although his right eye appears cloudy behind his glasses Comparing him to the photos on the wall back in the 1960s in his biking outfit, full of youth and energy, he appears to me like a gnomeexpressionless, opaque, as if his eyes and soul have seen too much Did you like Washington, DC I ask him, referring to photos inside the house, which showed him in front of the White House Yes, he says, in paisa inflected Spanish, very much A beautiful city While he and Pablo were in the US capital, he says, they took time to visit the FBI museum, out of curiosity There on one of its walls they spotted a large WANTED poster with photos of his brother and himself that offered a 10 million reward The poster, he said, had made him nervous, but not Pablo, who was always level headed, even in the most desperate situations After they went outside, Pablo tried to calm his brother Pablo looked around for a few minutes, then turned to Roberto and said, Watch Roberto did, as Pablo went up to a policeman and asked for a light, using his heavily Spanish inflected English The policeman complied, unknowingly lighting the cigarette of the most powerful drug trafficker in the world Pablo then calmly returned to Roberto and his son, took a drag from the cigarette, and exhaled You see, he said, they dont know us over here I chat with Roberto, who seems to warm to the conversation He becomes friendly and relaxed Occasionally he pulls a small green bottle out of his pocket, withdraws an eye dropper, tilts his head back, and puts three drops into each eye Although his eyes were damaged in the bomb explosion, Robertos face is smooth and has no visible scars Did you know about Colonel Martnez and that the Search Bloc were after you I ask Yes, of course, we had our sources, he says Do you think that if the Bloque had not been created that your brother would not have been killed No It was Pablo going into politics I was against it, he says, peering at me through his glasses He explains that he was opposed to Pablos ill fated attempt to become a national politician Everyone began going after him thenalong with the Cali cartel While he puts drops into his eyes, I ask about the letter bomb in prison When the bomb blew up in his face, Roberto says, at first he saw angels Then he saw the Lord The explosion drew him closer to God, he says It made him believe in an afterlife Would you like to buy anything Jaime asks, impatient to leave and glaring at me for having asked so many questions I realize that its not Roberto who doesnt like questionsits Jaime This is all business to him He wants to get paid and leave I look around and agree to buy some photos Roberto sits down at one end of the table, then prepares a pen and a large inkpad I begin handing him photos one of Pablo dressed in a pinstriped suit, posing as the 192030s American gangster Al Capone, and holding a double barreled shotgun another of Pablo dressed as Pancho Villa, a personal hero of his, wearing a wide sombrero and a cartridge belt across his chest Roberto signs each of them, presses his thumb into the ink pad, then carefully affixes his thumbprint beneath his signature, something that Pablo used to do when writing public letters I hand him another photo, this one a copy of the wanted poster for 10 million, with photos of Pablo and Roberto at the top and the rest of the Medelln cartel leaders displayed in smaller photos below Afterward, the former accountant carefully rolls up each poster and fits them into a small cardboard tube, which is also for sale I would have thought that with so many billions of dollars, Pablo and Roberto would have had secret stores of cash and bank accounts all over the world But if that were the case, then why would Roberto agree to receive tours and be selling photos of his brother and other knickknacks for a handful of dollars Where did the billions go In the end, we shake hands Roberto touches my arm as Colombians are wont to do Mucho gusto, he says, and nods his head I exit the door and head down the driveway Roberto Escobar stares after me, a forlorn, gnomelike man who now seems utterly and completely alone Later that afternoon, I visit the Museum of Antioquia, the art museum on the Plaza Botero Before leaving Medelln, I want to see two paintings by Botero In a long, immaculate room with a shiny floor and a guard standing at one end, I find the first painting, a large canvas appropriately called The Death of Escobar The somber colored canvas depicts Medelln on a gloomy, overcast day There, in the middle, Pablo Escobar stands on a tiled rooftop, his white button down shirt open Escobar is barefoot, wears dark pants, and clutches a pistol in his right hand, pointing it up in the air A flurry of oversized bullets flow through him, left to right across the canvas, as if caught in a stop animation sequence some of the bullets have already punctured his stomach, neck, and chest, leaving small red wounds in Escobars pale white flesh Escobars eyes are closedhe is still standing but dead, caught in the moment of impact, just as he is slain In another room, and as if from another scene clipped from the same film, I find the second painting Escobar now lies on his side on the same rooftop, a gun still in his hand His open shirt reveals a body riddled by bullets Below in the street a police officer in a green uniform and cap points up at the fallen gangster Alongside him a short woman in a red dress looks up, pressing her hands together, and prays As I exit the museum, I cant help but reflect that, two decades after his death, Pablo Escobar has long since been buried and now belongs to the realm of painters and writers and filmmakers and other mythmakersand that his exploits are still being reshaped in the present In a way, Escobar was Colombias latest version of El Dorado, the Golden Man, a onetime king who daily anointed himself with gold dust so plentiful that he could easily wash it off and replenish it the next Like the woman praying in Boteros painting, a sizeable sector of Colombians emulated, worked for, and or admired Escobar, as if following the sun, blinded by the reflected gold of Escobars enormous wealth and power, blinded by his fable like, rags to riches story, blinded by the very myths that had risen up around him As I head across the plaza it suddenly strikes me that the real golden man of Colombia, one who remained untarnished and incorruptible, was the former police colonel, Hugo Martnez He is now retired and lives quietly with his wife in Bogot Tragically, his son Hugo Jr died in a car accident in 2003 Nevertheless, when Martnezs own life and his familys lives were on the lineindeed, when the very life of the Colombian nation was at stakehere was a man who could be neither bought nor sold, who was motivated by neither plata nor plomo, but by principle It was Martnez, not Escobar, who proved to be Colombias El Doradothe mythical, incorruptible, nearly unimaginable king I The word sicario comes from the Latin sicarius, or dagger men, originally referring to a small group of Jewish guerrillas, in the first century BC, who attempted to expel Roman occupiers by using concealed daggers for assassination.In this vivid, engaging hybrid of travel and history, Kim MacQuarrie proves to be the ideal companion on a trip the length of South Americaa land where past and present are inseparable Mark Adams, author of TURN RIGHT AT MACHU PICCHU Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time MacQuarrie writes smartly and engagingly and with a sense of populist enthusiasm about the variety of South Americas life and landscape Tom Zoellner The New York Times Book Review Fascinating A poignant summary of the collision between the ancient and the modern that has done much to shape the Andean region Matthew Price The Boston Globe MacQuarrie s book is as richly detailed as it is deeply felt A thoughtfully observed travel memoir and history Kirkus Reviews The human history that has shaped South America is dramatically re created in this rich account of iconic Andes characters, from Pablo Escobar and Hiram Bingham to Che Guevara and Butch Cassidy Don George National Geographic Traveler Few writers know the mountainous spine of South America better than Kim MacQuarrie, and fewer still can match the richness, verve, and competence he brings to his work Whether focused on Darwin s extraordinary journey through icy Patagonia or the demise of Che Guevara in Bolivia, MacQuarrie displays an unfailing talent for great storytelling and an exceptional depth of knowledge Life and Death in the Andes is a beautifully crafted book that brings to vivid life one of the most spectacular and mysterious landscapes on the planet Scott Wallace, author of The Unconquered In Search of the s Last Uncontacted Tribes MacQuarrie is a master storyteller whose cinematic eye always shines through Edward Morris BookPage MacQuarrie spectacularly describes the Andes This is a well written, immersive work that history aficionados, particularly those with an affinity for Latin America, will relish Library Journal It was an inspired idea to weave a journey through the Andes with tales of some of its most flamboyant characters gangsters like the drug baron Pablo Escobar and the bank robber Butch Cassidy, murderous idealists like Che Guevara and the founder of the Shining Path insurgency, or Charles Darwin and the Patagonian indigenous peoples Kim MacQuarrie tracks down their descendants or acolytes, and enthralls the reader with their stories and his own travels John Hemming, author of THE CONQUEST OF THE INCAS Eccentric, often lively Part history, part chatty travelogue MacQuarrie is an enthusiastic guide and is often amusing and occasionally enlightening Brigitte Frase Minneapolis Star Tribune Life and death Definition of Life by Merriam life involving or culminating in vitally important as if See defined for English language learners And Death Quotes quotes Goodreads On the a friend, we should consider that fates through confidence have devolved on us task double living, henceforth to fulfill promise our friend s Questions About JW Near Experiences What Do They Not Mean they give glimpse afterlife The Bible account Lazarus resurrection sheds some light this matter definition Free Define synonyms, pronunciation, translation, dictionary adj Involving ending mongoose battle with cobra Wikipedia is fundamental concept game Go, where status distinct group stones determined either being alive, may remain board indefinitely, dead, will be lost captured basic idea can summarized YouTube Machinima Partner, I m mostly upload fighting videos Mortal Kombat Injustice content but do other games such Snow Patrol May , Artist Snow Licensed YouTube Fray How Save Official Video Duration ,, views Death, Death Death, In beginning there was nothing neither nor existed world lived only whose name Sa, his wife their daughter Needing place family live, Sa eventually used magical powers create vast sea mud Twilight Twilight This special feature book includes classic novel, Twilight, bold surprising reimagining, Stephenie Meyer Packaged an oversize, jacketed hardcover flip book, edition features nearly pages new well exquisite back cover art The Last Days Incas Kim MacQuarrie FREE shipping qualifying offers epic story fall Inca Empire Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro Andes Trail vivid, engaging hybrid travel history, proves ideal companion trip length South America land past present are inseparable Mark Adam, author TURN RIGHT AT MACHU PICCHU Rediscovering Lost City One Step at Time About Us Peru For Less American born Four time Emmy winning documentary filmmaker books He has bachelor degree biology Peru Galapagos Tour Packages Presented MacQuarrie, winner Our tour groups always small private Less selected must see destinations designed collection packages suit needs preferences all travelers Custom Machu Picchu Local Experts Author FX developing TV series AGENDA CCWESTT Conference FRIDAY, JUNE Registration Hallway Speaker Check Vintage Room Breakfast Welcoming Lianne Lefsrud, Anjum Mullick, Margaret Ann Armour Edmonton Keynote Katrin, Entrepreneur, Amplifying Women Leadership Social Entrepreneurship Coffee Break Networking Developmental Disabilities Institute Today, DDI dynamic, non profit, multi site agency, each day serving hundreds children adults autism developmental disabilities, providing educational, residential, habilitative, vocational, transportation, service coordination support Long Island community Battle Cajamarca Battle unexpected ambush seizure ruler Atahualpa force led Pizarro, November killed thousands counselors, commanders, unarmed attendants great plaza Cajamarca, caused armed host outside town fleeThe capture marked opening stage Breastcancer Breast Cancer Information Support Breastcancer registered c nonprofit organization dedicated information those touched disease Prom Night IMDb six long years, Hamilton High School seniors Kelly Lynch, Jude Cunningham, Wendy Richards Nick McBride been hiding truth what happened ten year old Robin Hammond her broken body discovered near abandoned convent Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *