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Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the Richest, Most Powerful Criminal in History Paperback – 1 May 2002
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Killing Pablo, Mark Bowden's intoxicating account of the turbulent life of Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar and his inevitable demise, relates in riveting detail the cataclysmic effect one man can have on the world economy. Finally tracked down and killed in 1992 after a 15-month intense manhunt that had resulted in hundreds of casualties on both sides, Escobar was, ironically, that archetypal American hero, the outlaw, siding with "ordinary people" against the ruling oligarchy (although at his peak Forbes magazine listed him as the seventh-richest person in the world). His break came when the American drug of choice changed from dope to cocaine, a golden, or perhaps powdered, egg exploited by Escobar with resourceful manipulation of officials and politicians--he would offer the classic choice of his silver or his lead. Even when incarcerated at La Catedral prison on a smuggling charge, he turned it into a state within a state. The guards, the army and the police all fell within his pay and he led his operation with a quiet, well-mannered ruthlessness. Until, that is, the Americans took an interest.
Bowden is well-equipped to describe the drawn-out campaign by the intelligence services to assassinate Escobar, having already covered similar territory in the superb Black Hawk Down, which chronicled the disastrous 1993 American operation in Mogadishu. His descriptions of the electronic surveillance that finally ensnared the hounded Don and the shady mutual interests of civilian militia group Los Pepes, the Colombian government forces and the US Delta unit that wore him down, are taut, dramatic and deeply thrilling. While he stops short of claiming that the Americans were present or active in the killing, he admits that Delta knew roughly where Escobar was and were dismissive of the electronic wizardry, pointing out that Escobar was eventually spotted by the naked eye. Though Escobar died, the circumstances he seized upon would be harder to expunge. The troubling, concluding lines of Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui come to mind, referring to a character based on Al Capone and Hitler but who could have been Escobar, "The bastard son is dead but the bitch is still on heat". --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The first title from Atlantic Books, Killing Pablo pins their ambitious trade credentials firmly to the mast and should make their rivals just that little bit nervous. Charting the rise and fall of Colombian drugs baron Pablo Escobar, Bowden's account is firmly in the factual bestseller mould: contemporary, colourful and addictive. Escobar's career was an extraordinary one: he was an elected member of parliament, and built roads, houses and hospitals. He was a hero to the poor. He was also "the richest and most powerful criminal in history", head of a brutal crime organisation holding a country to ransom. The efforts to bring Escobar to justice involved covert action by US Special Forces and intelligence services and is a story which, until now, has never been told in detail. Bowden had access to highly classified documents to compile this authoritative account, as well as secret surveillance footage, wire tap transcripts and he interviewed all of the major players in the case. The result is a colourful and absorbing account of true crime, corruption and an international manhunt, written with excitement and flair.. Pablo should prove a trade killer. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
It's a story of violence that is unbelievably casual. Pablo Escobar and his henchmen had a simple way of keeping control of their empire, and of their public relations : kill everyone who disagrees. It helped that Pablo Escobar played the bountiful benefactor in his home town of Medellin, so that many of the locals revered, respected and helped him during his months-long life underground.
The author does a good job of describing the various efforts that were made to curb Escobar's activities, both in Colombia and in the USA. It was hard to keep up with the description of the political situation in Colombia, partially because so many presidential candidates or prominent politicians, judges and law enforcement experts were killed. Finally, a Major Martinez was assigned the job of finding the fugitive Escobar, not once, but twice. Indeed, Escobar had negotiated a type of voluntary surrender that allowed him to run his drug empire from a comfortable country-club type prison where he controlled every guard! After a much-publicized escape from that prison, he went on the run for about 16 months, moving from safe house to safe house within the city of Medellin, while various technical experts tried to figure out where he was based on the radio signals coming from his cell phones. Ultimately, what put the most pressure on Escobar was not the legitimate police hunt, but the appearance of Los Pepes, a vigilante group that undertook a systematic elimination of Escobar's business associates and extended family.
The Americans involved in the search for Escobar noticed with dismay that these executions dovetailed very nicely with the information they had provided to the Colombian police. The suspicion that the Colombian police forces, embittered by years of seeing their brother officers being assassinated in the drug wars, had somehow become involved in this vigilante justice, was never proven or disproven - but weighs heavily on the mind of many of the Americans who were in Medellin at the time Escobar was found. Even the death of Escobar in a reported shoot-out raised more suspicions. Was his head wound a lucky shot, or a cold-blooded execution of a man who'd been brought down by a leg wound? Or even worse, was an American sniper involved?
These questions will likely never be answered. The book also doesn't answer the question of how the death of Pablo Escobar affected drug trafficking overall - because it is clear that at some point, the hunt for Pablo Escobar was not so much about fighting drugs, as about punishing and neutralizing someone who had kept an entire country terrorized for a decade.
Perhaps this is an abridged version, if so, avoid and read the entire book on print... Pity
Bowden's account is thorough without venturing into tedium. He humanises all the criminal players without glorifying their grotesque crimes. A thoroughly good read that I would be happy to recommend.
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