Various drugs are currently illegal in the United States, such as cocaine and opium, have been historically used for thousands of years for spiritual and medical purposes.

In the 1960s, significant changes happened when drug abuse became prominent symbols of social upheaval, youth rebellion, and political dissent.

The US government responded by halting the scientific research to evaluate their health benefits and safety. Fast forward to 1971; President Nixon declared “war on drugs,” which substantially increased control over drug use.

Since tons of cocaine distributed in the US came from Colombia, the government put the drug lord of the Medellin Cartel, Pablo Escobar, at the top of their most-wanted list. 

In Colombia, throughout the 1970s to late 1980s, Pablo Escobar was at the height of his power.

He was responsible for 80% of global cocaine distribution; hundreds (if not) thousands of tons were smuggled into the United States by the month.

The US government wanted him extradited and arrested for drug charges, but he used his massive fortune to buy his freedom in Colombia. He was never extradited; he was instead gunned down in his hometown of Medellin.


10 /10 Tombstone Thief

Pablo Escobar was born on December 1, 1949, to a lower-middle-class family in Rionegro, Colombia. The family moved to Medellin soon after his birth.

It was the place where Escobar grew up to be a drug lord. He had always been an ambitious person since a young age, telling his friends and family that someday he wanted to be the president of Colombia.

According to legend, he started his criminal enterprise as a tombstone thief. He would sandblast the names off, then reselling the tombstones to Panamanians. It did not take long until he moved up to stealing cars.


9 /10 Coca Paste

It was not until the 1970s that he bumped into the path to drugs, the commodity that would eventually lead to his power and wealth.

He would obtain coca paste in Peru and Bolivia, refine it, and then transport the final product into the United States.

Escobar climbed up to prominence after Fabio Restrepo, a local drug lord in Medellin, was murdered in 1975.

Now that there was a power vacuum, Escobar ended up filling the empty spot at the top. He took over the organizations that were once under Restrepo’s control and expanded operations.

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8 /10 Drug Kingpin

The murder of Fabio Restrepo was reportedly an assassination carried out on the order of Escobar himself to launch himself as a crime boss.

He soon took control of all organized crime activities in Medellin and was responsible for roughly 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. 

He spent a considerable amount from drug profits to fund his campaign for Colombia’s congress.

It took him a fortune to build a public perception that he was a generous philanthropist, but it paid off. In 1982, he became an elected congressman.


7 /10 Marriage

Escobar married Maria Victoria Henao in 1976. She was only 15-year-old back then, while he was 26.

From the marriage, he had two children: Juan Pablo and Manuela. It must have been a troubled marriage for Escobar was known for his extramarital affairs; according to rumors, he tended to prefer underage girls.

One of his girlfriends was Virginia Vallejo, who became a famous Colombian TV personality and author.

In 2007, she published Amando a Pablo, odiando an Escobar, describing, among other things, her intimate relationship with him from 1982 to 1987.

6 /10 Silver Or Lead

Being a leader of the Medellin Cartel, Escobar led the criminal organization with a legendary ruthlessness that triggered the anger of several politicians, law enforcement, and even judges.

He dealt with his enemies with a method called Plata o plomo (silver or lead).

If persons of authority stood in his way, he would first try to bribe them – this is the “silver” part of the method. When bribing didn’t work, he would have them killed – the “lead” part.


5 /10 Tons Of Cocaine

The Medellin Cartel smuggled most of its cocaine into the United States from the north coast of Colombia to the Florida coast. Between the two locations was a 900-mile of open water, and it was not even as difficult as it seemed to be. 

Loads of cocaine would be dropped off a plane directly into the water. The cartel’s American counterparts picked everything up using speedboats and rushed ashore.

Sometimes the Colombian cartel’s pilot flew the plane straight into the Florida mainland to let it crash land in remote locations. Then their American friends would continue the distribution from there.


4 /10 Avianca Flight 203

Like what is often depicted in mafia films, Escobar didn’t want his enemies or anybody to interrupt his cartel operations.

He once ordered the assassination of presidential candidates and was allegedly behind the 1985 attack on Supreme Court, in which more than 100 people were killed.

Another example of mass killing carried out on his order was the bombing of Avianca Flight 203, a Colombian domestic flight from Bogota to Cali. The main target was not even on board. The bombing killed 110 people.

3 /10 One Of The World’s Richest And Most Powerful

At the height of Escobar’s power, the Medellin Cartel smuggled as much as 15 tons of cocaine into the United States daily.

He had a massive army of criminals and soldiers and more than enough money to build a private zoo and buy properties all over Colombia.

Escobar used his airstrips and planes for cocaine distribution. His total personal wealth was estimated at $24 billion by the mid-1980s.

Escobar continued to spend millions on public investments such as schools, churches, stadiums, and housing. Many people in Medellin saw him as a local successful, generous boy.

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2 /10 La Catedral

Escobar seemed to be above the law with enormous wealth and unrestrained cruelty, at least in Colombia.

In the early 1990s, as the pressure from the US government was mounting over the Colombian government to have Escobar extradited for drug-related charges, he set up a bold agreement with the authorities.

In 1991, he agreed to turn himself in but only if he could build his prison. The government approved the idea, so he made “La Catedral’ which looked more like a palace than a prison.

The building instead became an office for him to continue his criminal enterprise.

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1 /10 Gunned Down

It later came to light that Escobar also used La Catedral as a torture chamber to punish disloyal underlings. That was too much even for the Colombian government, so they planned to relocate him to standard prison.

Fearing extradition, he went into hiding. By late 1992, local police teamed up with the US government for a search.

On December 2, 1993, the search party was able to locate his whereabouts in Medellin. Security forces immediately surrounded him, but he resisted arrest.

While attempting to escape through the roof of his hiding place, he was gunned down to death.

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