Top positive review
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Great read, detailed and very insightful and well written. Highly recommend!
on 1 January 2017
This book explains first how Pablo Escobar scrambled his way up to the top of the cocaine distribution network known as the Medellin cartel, and then goes into much detail about the last years of his life, especially the period that he was on the run from the Colombian police, the CIA, the DEA and US military advisers.
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.