Pablo Escobar's brother and business partner recalls the Colombian drug lord’s outsized life and death.
Roberto tells Pablo’s story with a cool reserve. He makes no excuses for his brother’s crimes, but he wants readers to have a more rounded picture. In Roberto’s view, Pablo was not all bad. He was loyal, he was a family man and he had a streak of generosity to match his violence. Growing up poor, he soon discovered a knack for smuggling. The contraband was cigarettes at first, but he was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the cocaine boom, much of it fueled by U.S. users. It was purely a business decision, made without remorse: Cocaine was easier to smuggle than washing machines (another of Pablo’s specialties) and provided a much greater profit. The amounts of money involved were ludicrous; it was so difficult to find good hiding spots for tens of millions in cash that about ten percent was lost to water damage and rats. Pablo used submarines for his smuggling operations and had so many members of the army, police and state bureaucracy on his payroll that he rivaled the government as an employer. Yet the consequences of his trade were death and destruction, which rain down on almost every page of this memoir. Jaw-dropping events abound. Leftist guerrillas took over the Palace of Justice at Pablo’s request to seize papers that threatened his extradition to the United States. He built his own prison with the government’s assent and dispensed colossal sums to the impoverished and needy. “In Colombia,” Roberto explains, “poor people have always tried to help each other.” Pablo wasn't exactly underprivileged by the time he was dispensing alms, and the eerily detached way he gave execution orders doesn't buttress his brother's case for his charitable side. Nonetheless, his life makes for a grim, ensnaring tale.
The Robin Hood mantle draped over Pablo is a bit much, but his exploits will keep readers agog.