In this riveting work of reportage, award-winning journalist Bowden (Black Hawk Down, 1999) details American involvement in the assassination of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian billionaire godfather of international cocaine trafficking.
Drawing on restricted documents, transcripts of Escobar’s bugged phone conversations, and interviews with soldiers and government officials involved in the mission, Bowden composes a fast-paced chronicle of the notorious Narco’s rise and downfall. He sketches out Escobar’s early days in 1960s Medellín, showing how the young crime boss launched a career of car-theft and extortion before making his millions in the cocaine business. Starting in 1984, Escobar and his guerillas—who hoped to coerce the Colombian government to ban extradition of drug traffickers to the US—began assassinating judges, police officers, journalists, and politicians. But what made him an American military target was his 1989 bombing of an Avianca airliner, a botched attempt to murder a Colombian presidential candidate that killed over 100 people, including two Americans. Escobar surrendered to the Colombian government under the condition that he could live in La Catedral, his luxury “prison,” where, protected by his henchmen, he entertained visitors with private bars, soccer games, and teenaged prostitutes. When the Colombian government attempted to relocate Escobar to a real penitentiary, he escaped by bribing Colombian officials and remained on the run for over a year. Bowden shocks with the horrific progression of Escobar’s Medellín cartel in the first part of this account, offers insightful perspectives of frustrated military men who hunt the drug lord in the second, and renders some nice portraits of interesting characters throughout. He does his best to get the facts straight by citing both Colombians’ and Americans’ recollections of significant events. Yet, with so much political corruption on both sides of the fence, he allows the reader to make the final judgments.
Essential reading for any aficionado of espionage scandals and Mafioso folklore.