Was Pablo Escobar really a CIA agent?

Pablo Escobar: Who murdered the drug lord?

AFP

On December 2, 1993, Pablo Escobar, the richest drug lord the world has ever seen, tried to escape hiding from his home in Medellín, Colombia by climbing over a nearby rooftop. However, he is struck down by gunfire.

The resulting picture should become known worldwide - the bloody corpse of the most powerful drug lord lies spread out on the tiled roof in the city that was once his safest retreat.

US Government Photo

The other men in the photo, belonging to a special squad, have long been viewed as the ones who confronted Escobar with the justice system from which he had been hiding for so long.

Yet reports from hostile dealers and gang members, classified documents, and Escobar's own family suggest that these troops and soldiers, protected by state law, may not be responsible for Escobar's demise.

Bloque de Búsqueda

Towards the end of 1989 there were a series of bloody attacks by Escobar against the powers that be and the officials of the Colombian government. The then President Virgilio Barco then formed a special police unit to bring down the drug lord and his cartel.

While the initial confrontations with the Medellin Cartel left the search pad confused and weakened, it eventually became a hardened task force that Escobar and his staff coped with.

Together with US special forces, the US Army Intelligence Unit, members of the CIA and the US Drugs Administration, the search block tracked Escobar between 1992 and 1993. According to official reports, it was the search unit that ultimately killed Escobar.

On December 2, 1993, the day after Escobar's birthday, he celebrated with marijuana, a birthday cake and wine, according to Mark Bowden's book "Killing Pablo". The search unit followed the drug lord to the Los Olivos neighborhood in Medellín.

Sins of my Father

The search unit was able to approach the house where Escobar was talking to his son on the phone. In spite of all group fixtures, the only positive identification made in Bowden's report was when a member spotted Escobar through a window on the second floor.

Members of the search unit surrounded the house while others stormed through the door. Alarmed, Escobar and a bodyguard fled through a rear window onto an orange-tiled roof. They were immediately hit by a hail of gunfire. Both were struck down by headshots - Escobar died instantly from a bullet that went through his right ear.

After the shooting subsided, Hugo Martinez - the leader of the search unit who had pursued Escobar for three years but was not present at the conviction himself - heard one of his men over the radio shouting "Viva Colombia!" And adding: " We have just killed Pablo Escobar! "

Reports surfaced shortly after Escobar was struck down. But whoever had fired the actual shot that cost Escobar his life was lost in the chaos of what was happening.

Los Pepes

In January 1993, a new group joined the Escobar Hunt, Bowden reported. “Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar” or “People Who Are Persecuted by Pablo Escobar” - known as the Los Pepes - were formed from a group of hostile drug dealers, paramilitary units and others who were despised by the cartel boss in Medellín.

Screen grab

A little earlier, in mid-1992, Escobar's execution of two lieutenants broke his cartel into opposing factions. According to journalist Alma Guillermoprieto, who spoke to a former member of the Los Pepes, the group was likely to be led by former members of the Medellin cartel. In search of revenge, they had offered Escobar's group members, members of the search block, or other money so that they could tackle the baron.

As Bowden wrote, the Los Pepes were "an extra-judicial power that didn't mind breaking the lines of legality and morality that Escobar himself so bluntly ignored." Many members of the Colombian government have been said to have participated in the hunt .

According to the DEA documents quoted by Bowden, the group may have received funding from the hostile Cali cartel and information from the Colombian National Police. Apparently US spies also worked in the country.

In 2015, a court ordered the CIA to release more documents that could shed light on the alleged collaboration between the U.S. government, Colombian security forces, and Los Pepes.

Wikimedia Commons

The Los Pepes quickly organized a campaign that challenged Escobar's in sheer violence. In early 1993 there were up to six killings a day. Low-level cartel leaders, former state officers associated with the cartel, Escobar's lawyers - no one was safe from them.

Escobar struck back with further bombing in the urban areas. The Los Pepes responded by destroying numerous properties owned by Escobar and its members. A report by Diego Fernando Murillo, also known as Don Berna, an important person in the Los Pepes, indicates that members of the Los Pepes accompanied the search pad in their attack on Escobar's hiding place in Medellín, according to the nonprofitable journalistic organization "Insight Crime" . Don Berna reported that it was his brother Rodolfo who killed Escobar with an M-16 shot in the head.

Tom Griggs

Despite the evidence, cited by Bowden, that Don Berna collaborated with both the Search Block and the DEA, the accuracy of Don Berna's report has never been confirmed. However, a 2003 confession by a former paramilitary member confirmed Don Berna's claim that it was a joint effort.

"It was an agreement they had because Escobar was a common enemy," said the former soldier. However, the paramilitary leader Fidel Castaño, a co-founder of Los Pepes, previously denied such involvement. In a 1994 interview, he said that there was "never a connection with the search block".

Colombian Government Photo

"The action in which Escobar was killed was carried out exclusively by the police, as is well known to the public," said Fidel Castaño.

Bowden's report contradicts Castaño's described assignments in which the semi-military leader accompanied the search pad. In addition, the DEA is said to have been involved in the collaboration.

Pablo himself

A third party believed to be responsible for Escobar's death is Escobar himself.

His son Juan Pablo Escobar Henao, who changed his name to Sebastián Marroquín, insists that his father killed himself on the roof of the house in Medellín.

"I have no doubt that Escobar planned his own death," said Marroquín in an interview in 2014. In his book "Pablo Escobar: My Father", which was published this year, he describes the basis for his objections in detail . Escobar had explained to his son numerous times that he would shoot himself in the right ear to keep from being captured alive, he says. In addition, other images of the roof show Escobar's Sig Sauer pistol next to his corpse. Marroquín says his father wanted to use these to kill himself.

Other members of the Escobar family confirmed this assumption. After an excavation of the drug lord's body commissioned by his mother and widow in 2006, the family said a hole in his head confirmed the theory that the fatal wound was self-inflicted.

Martinez said a shot from a meter away should leave traces of gunpowder on Escobar's skin - traces not visible in the autopsy photos, Bowden said.

The question of who ultimately killed Pablo Escobar is likely to go unanswered. His life and death left a dark veil in Colombia. The call to forget the exact cause of Escobar's death seems to be welcomed by both Americans and Colombians. "Nobody will ever tell you if Los Pepes or anyone else killed Escobar," said Bowden. “One can only speculate”.

Translated by Jessica Dawid