StMU Research Scholars

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Winner of the Fall 2018 StMU History Media Award for

Best Article in the Category of “International Studies”

Drugs, money, girls, power. That’s what a majority of people think of when they hear of Pablo Escobar. Many have heard of Escobar through stories and articles, but what people don’t understand is how he became the person he did and what struggles led to his ultimate defeat. To truly understand how Pablo Escobar became the person he was, his family background, economic stability, and financial struggles have to be taken into consideration.

Pablo and his son Juan Pablo in front of the White House | Courtesy of Business Insider

Pablo Escobar was born in Rionegro, Colombia where he developed his criminal mindset at an early age. His family was unable to support him and his siblings financially, so he took matters into his own hands. He started with minuscule crimes such as grave robbing and car hijacking. However, these crimes did not satisfy his desire for more power and respect. He escalated to smuggling and trading business for cigarettes, but then later ended up working for Fabio Restrepo, one of the most respected drug traffickers of his time. Escobar worked under his wing, and quickly learned and retained everything that Fabio taught him. He became his “right hand man,” but that wasn’t enough for Escobar. His power hunger grew so much that he ended up killing Fabio in 1975, and immediately he took over all of his operations and expanded an empire that took the world by a storm.1

As fun as Escobar’s drug empire was, he knew he could not continue to take the throne without getting involved in the political world. Escobar’s dream since he was a young kid was to become the president of Colombia. Every little kid’s dream is to become the president or an astronaut, but to Escobar, this wasn’t a dream, it was going to be his reality. But first, he had to start small to build himself up to his dream. Escobar knew that in order to continue his business and even have a shot of becoming a political leader in Colombia, he had to gain the hearts of the people. And what better way to do this than to go back to the community he was raised in. Escobar knew this was going to gain him a big advantage in the political world when he decided to give back to his own people. Pablo helped construct new houses, pools and stores for the community. He also gave his money away to citizens throughout the community to help people who were financially unstable. Escobar’s most famous “robin hood” act was building a new recreational center for the community. The old recreation center had been destroyed over time and was never kept up, and the community didn’t have the money to fix it. Pablo revamped the recreation center, and this was what really captured the hearts of the people. He was glorified as a saint by the whole community and people worshipped him for everything he did. He was one of their own, someone who came from nothing, but became something big.2

With Escobar being so powerful and impactful, he had to be very persuasive in order to get his way. He would bribe numerous powerful people to get what he wanted, no matter the cost. Escobar had a saying, “Plata o plomo,” meaning, silver or lead.3 This helped describe the kind of influence he had with people. If he didn’t get what he wanted with bribery, he would respond with a retaliation or even death. Instilling fear into people was how he gained the respect he craved. He wanted people to know who he was and to not cross him, or else they would have to deal with the consequences. Soon, Escobar’s hunger for respect turned into a loss of humanity. Escobar was so determined to expand his business that he did not know any limits. Assassinations, suicide, death were all apart of the game to Escobar in order to obtain the bigger picture.4

Escobar killed thousands of innocent people in order to be the kingpin of drug distribution. He would orchestrate bombings, assassinations, and even conduct “drive-bys.” It did not matter who the person was, whether they have a family or kids, Escobar killed to get what he wanted. He conducted numerous assassinations on political leaders, journalists, and even citizens who disagreed or did not contribute to his cause. Escobar knew that his shot at becoming the president of Columbia was not going to happen after he started killing political forces in the government, and also the United States was quickly closing in on Escobar trying to arrest him. He used his rage in retaliation to his enemies, hoping this would help influence the Columbian government. Escobar’s main goal on his agenda was a no-extradition clause and amnesty for drug barons in exchange for giving up the trade. Escobar’s “blacklist” claimed the lives of three Colombian presidential candidates, an attorney general, judges and more than 1,000 police officers. In addition, Escobar was implicated as the mastermind behind the bombing of a Colombian jetliner in 1989 that killed more than 100 people. Escobar’s murder binge eventually turned the public opinion against him and caused a breakup of the alliance of drug traffickers known as The Medellin Cartel.5

Pablo Escobar a couple years before his death | Courtesy of

Soon after all of  Escobar’s affairs started going down the drain, Escobar surrendered to Cesar Gaviria, the President of Columbia. But Escobar wanted something in return. The extradition was lifted, and Escobar was allowed to build his own prison called “La Catedral,” which was guarded by people Escobar handpicked. This allowed Escobar to control everything that happened from inside the prison. Although this was not the ideal “capture” the government wanted along with the United States, which at the time, was going to be their best bet. Escobar could control his entire business by smuggling people, drugs, items, foods, and guns to build his “home away from home.” Escobar had a casino, spa, and nightclub built into his so-called prison. As much as Escobar liked the fact that he was able to construct his own prison with his own security and within whatever parameters he wanted, this was once again not enough for him. He wanted to be free to get back to his empire. To escape, Escobar needed a plan.6

The United States and the Columbian government got wind of Escobar’s plans to escape, so they retaliated against him. They surrounded the compound to try to cover up all of the entrances, but this didn’t stop Escobar. First, they made there way through the main entrance thinking this would block off any and all “escape routes.” But in reality, Escobar hoped they would do this. While they were all coming through the front, Escobar made his way through a secret entrance that he built for this specific situation. All of his guards were having a gun fight outside and throughout the Castle while Escobar was making his infamous “get away.” Escobar escaped into the forest where he fled from the authorities, even though his escape was already planned for another day. It helped that even though there was a snitch inside the prison, there was also one outside that alerted Escobar the authorities were approaching the castle, enabling him to escape when the time was right. The manhunt for the drug lord Pablo Escobar lasted almost a year and a half. The authorities occasionally got tips on Escobar’s location, but these were all false sightings that led to dead ends. Escobar had to be very careful while on the run. But in the end, the law caught up to him. On this fateful day, he had tried to escape, but the police got wind of it. The police pursued this tip, and they ended up closing in on his location. He tried to run through the neighborhood, but he ended up being shot in a shootout, and this is how the reign of Pablo Escobar came to a quick end on December 2, 19937

The death of Pablo Escobar by the Columbian government and DEA | Courtesy of Recentr

Escobar even to this day, despite all of the horrible and inhumane acts he committed, is considered a saint for everything he gave to the community. Drug dealer or not, he gave back to his people which left a lasting impression not only in their hearts but in their minds. His actions will never be forgotten by people all around the world. So the question is: Is Pablo Escobar a robin hood or murderer? That’s for you to decide.




  1. “Pablo Escobar,”, December 14, 2017,
  2. Christopher Minster, “Learn the Story of Ruthless Drug Kingpin, Pablo Escobar,” ThoughtCo,
  3. Amy Tikkanen, “Pablo Escobar,” Encyclopædia Britannica, March 08, 2016,
  4. Christopher Minster, “Learn the Story of Ruthless Drug Kingpin, Pablo Escobar,” ThoughtCo,
  5. “Pablo Escobar,” The Free Dictionary,
  6. Steven Ambrus, “Colombia Drug Lord Escobar Dies in Shootout,” Los Angeles Times, December 03, 1993,
  7. Steven Ambrus, “Colombia Drug Lord Escobar Dies in Shootout,” Los Angeles Times, December 03, 1993,

Tessa Bodukoglu

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Recent Comments


  • Aaron Sandoval

    This article was a really interesting read, I was drawn in by the title, because to me seeing Pablo Escobar as a Robin Hood figure seemed almost impossible. After reading this article it still seems difficult to picture him as a saint, despite the good he did, and the heinous actions he committed it is hard to picture him as anything other than horrible, but that may be due to the information that has been presented throughout my life. So it is possible that others may see him as a saint, it just isn’t an image that I have for him.

  • Nicholas Burch

    It’s for the people to decide if Pablo Escobar was a Robin Hood or murderer. Looking at the events that occurred in his life over time, you could say he’s both. However, when you think about his intentions, it’s clear Escobar was a psychopath. He appeared to be charming to all of Columbia at first, but all he only gave back to get more power so he could get away with anything he wanted. His entire empire was being built off murder and it didn’t matter who was being killed, as long as Escobar had the power. When you murder the people who you’re giving back to, it’s hard to be pictured as a Robinhood.

  • David Castaneda Picon

    I enjoyed reading about Pablo Escobar story. Almost every drug dealer that achieve that kind of power often start as same as Pablo, a great example is El Chapo Guzman, his family could not support him, so he had to take care of it, and as same as Escobar some people consider him as a Robing Hood because of everything he has done for his community. It seems that Pablo Escobar wanted power so he could help his community and do the right thing. However, I would not look at Escobar as a saint or a Robin Hood because despite he wanted the best for his people, his actions were terrible ending up destroying people’s lives and families.

  • Samantha Zamorano

    Here is a man who gave back to the community and finally gave them someone they could turn to because how corrupt and ineffective their government was, yet this same man could easily switch off the charismatic persona and kill you and your entire family for standing in his way. What will always shock me the most about Escobar is how the government allowed him to construct his own prison and set his own agenda and his own rules. I wonder how much credibility and/or respect Colombia lost during this time at the world politics table.

  • Thiffany Yeupell

    Pablo Escobar can be described as Machiavellian, with his tactics of usurping power with many and any means. From the peaceful and baiting approach of supporting his community to the eventual and escalating use of violence, Escobar did not let up on the opportunities to look good to the public, until it was too late. But even then, to have successfully garnered that amount of power to create the prison that would withhold him (and eventually break out of) is an accomplishment of itself. The man is as powerful as he is cunning and the two makes for a threatening combo.

  • Luis Jaen

    This article tells an amazing story of Pablo Escobar with two sides to his life-course. Although the media in the United States portrayed him as a deadly criminal, which was not wrong, but he did give back to his own community. Pablo Escobar was also very intelligent and this shows through his rise to power. He went from rags to riches and the prison escape would only be possible due to his intelligence. Overall, this article shows just how intelligent Escobar was and how easy it was for him to get viewed in different ways.

  • Kimberly Parker

    Pablo Escobar, the infamous Columbian drug lord narcoterrorist who founded and was the sole leader of the Medellín Cartel. He was most definitely not a saint, with everything that he has done, and all of the people he has murdered. What he was trying to do was give back to his people, which shows that he had good intentions, but the way that he went about giving back to his people was bad and very immoral.

  • Nicole Ortiz

    I would not consider Pablo Escobar as being a saint. He had good intentions behind the things that he did, especially in trying to give back to his community and making life better for them but he did them the wrong way. He used the good deeds he did as a way to try and brainwash the community around him in hopes of becoming president but there’s a reason why he never had the chance to become president in the first place. It was incredible to see how powerful this man was despite all of the terrible things he did and how long it took authorities to be able to finally capture him and kill him after such a long man hunt.

  • Briana Montes

    Just because you do good things does not really justify what you’ve done bad. His intentions to help his people were good, but his intentions were immoral. He just wanted to gain power knowing that winning the hearts of people would really help him get that power he wanted. Overall this article was a great read. His dream of becoming president wouldnt have came true.

  • Kasandra Ramirez Ferrer

    I think without any doubt Pablo Escobar was a terrible person who hurt a lot of people and gave Mexico the mistaken reputation today has. I believe that Pablo Escobar never forgot where he came from and that is the reason why he gave a lot of help to what the article class “his people” but all the money and resources he gave to them came from dirty money and from selling drugs.

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