Before Escobar’s Medellin Cartel
took power, cocaine was not the drug of choice. Marijuana was the drug of
choice for most of the world. In “the late 1970’s, […] Escobar began to
supplement, and then virtually replace, their marijuana with a new product, one
that was low-cost, high-profit, and would quickly become enormously popular in
Escobar used his vast fortune to, not just help the poor, but also boost urbanization in Medellin. Escobar rebuilt an entire neighborhood in Medellin. “He built homes, schools, stores, and soccer fields, but also provided groceries and caregivers for children and the elderly in the area.” This all came at a cost, of course. Many of the men in these helped families were forced to work for Escobar or risk their lives. With the help of Escobar’s cocaine trade, the people of “Barrio Pablo Escobar” were able to work more and pour more money into the economy, which helped urbanize Medellin. The people of “Barrio Pablo Escobar” tell their children both sides of Pablo Escobar. They say that:
“’History says that Pablo Escobar was a man that perhaps made mistakes but he was also a very good man and our children need to know that,’ Duverney continued. ‘[We] tell our children that Pablo Escobar built this neighborhood and that thanks to him we have a decent home. They have to know where it comes from, where its story comes from, where their roots come from.’”
After his death in 1993, the crime rate started to decrease, allowing for increased commerce and tourism. This allowed Medellin to become a growing tourist destination. He may have had a good relationship with most of the poor, but criticized how he kept the vast majority of his wealth.
The manufacturing cost of cocaine was low and its resale value was high, allowing cartels to have enormous profits. Before being used as a psychoactive drug, “[c]oca leaves, mixed with alkalis such as vegetable ash or lime, which ease cocaine absorption, were used by natives [Peruvians] for both sacred and secular purposes; they chewed the leaves to cope with the effects of altitude, hunger, and fatigue.” The adaptation of the coca leaf to a synthetic drug allowed more people to have access to it. Cocaine began being cut with other substances to cut costs, allowing for higher profits. Since costs were cut, pricing became more affordable for the lower class. This created a problem in that the leaf that used to improve performance, was now preventing it, and causing health issues. Because of these social issues, Pablo Escobar prohibited any of his employees to use the drugs they were dealing. Also the lost revenue, but that goes without saying. With the profits, Escobar was able to commission 13 airplanes to transport 11 tons of cocaine per plane. The new form of the coca leaf is highly addicting. In the 1980’s, many people in the U.S. were addicted to cocaine. Escobar was responsible for most of the world’s cocaine supply.
Cocaine allowed Pablo Escobar to gain political power through fear
tactics and bribery. Escobar used a lot of terror tactics to get his way.
He had a policy towards anyone who could stop his cartel: “Plomo o Plata” which
translates to “Silver or Lead.” He would first offer high ranking officials
“Plata” (silver) for favors and what not, and if they refused, they received “Plomo”
(lead). In other words, they were shot. With this tactic, Escobar
was able to avoid extradition to the U.S. where he had no power over what
happened to him. Over the years, he gained many political enemies including las
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or FARC. The FARC are a group of
lower class soldiers who fight against the upper classes and outside influence
The crime rate in Colombia, specifically Medellin, was extremely high. Besides drug dealing, drive-by shootings, robberies, and assaults were commonplace in the streets of Medellin. The highly competitive drug trade mixed with an extremely powerful drug lord sent Medellin into chaos. In attempts to prevent borderline families from turning to other cartels, Escobar would kidnap members from that family and torture that person to ensure the family’s loyalty to the Medellin Cartel. Because of the mass amounts of violence and murders, Colombia became the murder capital of the world in the late 1980’s.
Political corruption was seen all the way from the lowest level of political power to the highest possible office before President. Escobar did not always have to use the “lead” part of his “Silver or Lead” policy. Usually, a bribe worked. Politicians now were inclined to allow Escobar’s tirade to continue without being checked. With essential politicians on his side, Escobar could continue his “illegal” trade. His fear of extradition to the U.S. was his motivation for becoming politically involved. He knew that his “Silver or Lead” policy would likely not had worked.
In conclusion, cocaine left a lasting effect on Colombia. From building communities and boosting the economy to murdering millions for the sake of money; cocaine has shaped Colombia economically, politically, and socially. Mainly distributed through drug cartels, cocaine became the “it” drug of the 1980’s due to the availability and affordability of the drug itself. Cocaine improved some areas of Colombia while completely decimating others. The political system in Colombia was corrupted, thousands of millions were killed, tortured and feared for their lives. Many citizens fled from Colombia for fear of the cartel’s power. Exit visas became more difficult to get a hold of in order to deter further trafficking. During the attempts on Escobar’s life, many bombs were dropped on Bogota, Cali, and Medellin in an attempt to finally end the cartel wars. With help from a vigilante group called Los Pepes, armed forces were able to exterminate Escobar (it is still unclear if the bullet that killed him came from an officer or his own gun). Once he was killed, the drug lord’s empire was destroyed little by little. Because of cocaine in psychoactive from, Pablo Escobar created a thriving nation with a horrible past of murder, violence and drug use. Pablo Escobar: the face of cocaine.